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Jorg B. Quenzer, Dmitry Bondarev and Jan-Ulrich Sobisch (Eds.) 

Manuscript Cultures: Mapping the Field 


Studies in Manuscript Cultures 


Edited by 
Michael Friedrich 
Harunaga Isaacson 
Jorg B. Quenzer 


Volume 1 



Manuscript Cultures: 
Mapping the Field 


Edited by 
Jorg B. Quenzer, 
Dmitry Bondarev 
and Jan-Ulrich Sobisch 


DE GRUYTER 



ISBN 978-3-11-022562-A 
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e-ISBN (EPUB) 978-3-11-038A82-6 

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Table of Contents 


Jorg B. Quenzer 

Introduction-1 


Europe 

Christian Brockmann 

Scribal Annotation as Evidence of Learning in Manuscripts from the First 
Byzantine Humanism: The “Philosophical Collection”-11 


Orient and Africa 

Alessandro Bausi 

Writing, Copying, Translating: Ethiopia as a Manuscript Culture-37 

Florian Sobieroj 

Arabic Manuscripts on the Periphery: Northwest Africa, Yemen and China-79 

Dmitry Bondarev 

Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria-113 


South Asia 

Dominik Wujastyk 

Indian Manuscripts-159 

Stefan Baums 

Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type-183 

Gudrun Melzer 

A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Gilgit Region-227 

A Glimpse into a Scribes’ Workshop 


vi Table of Contents 


Central Asia 

Agnieszka Helman-Wazny 

Tibetan manuscripts: Between History and Science-275 

Sam van Schaik 

Towards a Tibetan Palaeography: Developing a Typology of Writing Styles in 
Early Tibet-299 


East Asia 

Imre Galambos 

Punctuation Marks in Medieval Chinese Manuscripts-341 

James Robson 

The Archive Inside: Manuscripts Found within Chinese Religious 
Statues-359 

Index-375 


Jorg B. Quenzer 

Introduction 


The invention of script and writing was one of the most important in the history 
of mankind. The modern concept of the “book” has been shaped for hundreds of 
years by the Western printed book; but for thousands of years before Gutenberg, 
writing was handwriting, and books were manuscripts. Seen from an age when 
electronic texts and the possibilities they provide seem increasingly to be replac¬ 
ing the traditional book and its functions, it has become clear that the modern 
printed book is in fact much closer to the manuscript the notion of a “print revolu¬ 
tion” linked vdth the name of Gutenberg might suggest. 

But it is not only the “digital revolution” that has led to a recent rise in interest 
in manuscripts, but also new developments in a variety of seemingly unrelated 
fields relevant to the scope and methodology of codicology. First, there has been 
a growing awareness of the benefits of cross-disciplinary research; second, the 
integration of science and technology has led to an enormous increase in our 
knowledge of the manuscripts themselves and their history; thirdly, cultural 
studies has rediscovered the materiality of texts; and finally, it is now, and more 
than ever before, deemed necessary in our global age to take into consideration 
the written traditions of Asia, Africa, and the Americas (not all of these of course 
manuscript traditions in the strict sense), in order to arrive at a truly systematic 
and comparative approach which extends not only to include manuscripts from 
“non-European” cultures, but also their cultural context. 

The articles in this volume - as well as the series in which it appears - belong 
within this new approach, which we designate here as manuscript studies. In 
manuscript studies, the manuscript is considered as object in its own right and 
taken as a starting point for reconstruction of its cultural context. 

Two main presuppositions of our research must be briefly outlined; 

First, the manuscript is not to be read only as a vehicle for information con¬ 
veyed mainly through text or images, but studied as a physical object or artefact. 
The text may be regarded as a constituent part of the object, but it is only one of 
many such parts, and at times perhaps not even the most important one. Manu¬ 
script studies therefore focuses primarily on the artefact; a shift in perspective 
that requires a certain amount of rethinking for traditional disciplines like philol¬ 
ogy, codicology, textual criticism and palaeography. In this regard, our approach 
shares many affinities with the concept of material culture studies. 

Second, the social and cultural context of the manuscript, as a material object, 
must be studied and reconstructed as completely as possible. We refer to this 


2 


Jbrg B. Quenzer 


context as the particular manuscript culture to which a given manuscript belongs; 
the milieu in which it was and is produced, used and transmitted. It is, in turn, 
influenced by the artefacts it produces, and thus constitutes a highly complex 
whole changing in time. Furthermore, manuscript cultures are not necessarily 
identical with regional (e.g. India) or religious (e.g. Islamic) cultures. In one place 
and at one time, more than one manuscript culture can exist - for example, a 
manuscript culture of religious specialists working parallel to that of a scholarly 
elite. Florian Sobieroj, for example, discusses in his article (“Arabic Manuscripts 
on the Periphery”) characteristics of manuscripts which arose on the periphery of 
mainland Islam. He demonstrates that in spite of many common features, these 
peripheral traditions differ from each other and from the Islamic centre in many 
respects, for example in their choice of writing supports and types of script. 

Following this line of inquiry, it is clear that, as a first step, ground-breaking 
studies are required which not only contribute to a better understanding of indi¬ 
vidual manuscript cultures, but even more importantly provide data for compari¬ 
son, both from a systematic (synchronic) and from a historical (diachronic) view¬ 
point. With this in mind, it is precisely the broad and heterogeneous spectrum of 
cultures and disciplines involved that may help us overcome often unquestioned 
stereotypes and naive dichotomies such as “Western vs. Oriental”; stereotypes 
which are not only popular within Europe, but also in Asia and Africa. One of 
the challenges which emerges from our approach is the problem of appropriate 
terminology. If one were simply to adopt Western scholarly language, one would 
run the risk of overlooking characteristics of other cultures simply because they 
remain un-conceptualised in our academic discourse. 

The cross-disciplinary approach furthermore helps at least partly to even out 
imbalances in current research. It is estimated that there are presently far more 
than ten million extant manuscripts from Asian and African cultures; this vast 
body of evidence stands, however, in stark contrast to the state of research. In 
fact, the only pre-modern book culture that has been extensively studied is that 
of Western Europe. Yet another sub-field can therefore be defined vdthin our 
general approach; one that involved transferring, testing, and reviewing schol¬ 
arly methodologies against examples from outside of Europe. Dmitry Bondarev 
in his article (“West African Manuscripts”) outlines the reasons for the paucity of 
work on sub-Saharan manuscripts written in African languages in Arabic script 
(AJami). He applies a multidisciplinary approach to a comparative study of differ¬ 
ent manuscript types from northern Nigeria. Two particular types (genealogical 
lists and Qur’anic manuscripts) are examined with regard to their format, layout, 
script, linguistic content, and function, as well as their historical and religious 
contexts. The chapter shows that one more prestigious type of manuscript can 
influence the physical (non-textual) characteristics of other manuscripts. 


Introduction 


3 


In addition, in many places, there exist local traditions of scholarship with 
experience in using manuscripts and their own traditions of knowledge, and 
although their interests may not be identical to those of modern researchers, 
they certainly provide valuable insights. Thus, Alessandro Bausi in his article 
(“Writing, Copying, Translating”) examines complex “traditional” philological 
methods used by the copyists in Ethiopian manuscript culture, who focussed on 
“gaps”, “adjustments” and “normalisation” in the chain of traditional textual 
transmission. This allows Bausi to argue that the Ethiopian manuscript transmis¬ 
sion has remained largely free of textual variation. This in turn helps to legitimate 
reconstructive principles as effective in establishing the transmission of a single 
text. 

The necessary shift in perspective suggested here relates to the following main 
aspects of manuscript cultures: 

First of all, the physical production of the manuscript in the broadest sense 
should be made an object of study (including knowledge of the material support, 
writing instruments and writing materials). Further points of interest are the act 
of vnriting, the physical assembling of the writing material, and modes of storage 
and their effects on the transmission of the manuscript. Finally, socio-historical 
factors such as economic forces must be taken into consideration, especially 
when dealing with commissioned works or factory-like production processes. 
For example, Stefan Baum’s article (“Gandharan Scrolls”) sheds light on a recent 
discovery of an ancient manuscript type. After detailed investigation of its physi¬ 
cal features he advances a hypothesis about the date and place of origin of the 
Gandharan manuscript tradition of short-format scrolls. 

The function of the manuscript is primarily defined by its being the carrier 
of text, images or other information. In some contexts, it is also a space of inter¬ 
action between user and text. Thus one can find notes on manuscripts that are 
written records of thoughts or verbal communication about the text. These notes 
may include systematised paratexts: glosses, marginalia and colophons. Func¬ 
tionally, manuscripts are also used in primarily oral traditions as aide-memoires, 
as scripts that contain only key words, or as guides for recitation. The article by 
Imre Galambos (“Punctuation Marks in Medieval Chinese Manuscripts”) is a 
study of various scribal notations attested in the Dunhuang manuscripts of the 
5^^ to the 10* centuries CE. He demonstrates that these manuscripts provide evi¬ 
dence for the existence of a sophisticated notational system in the Chinese scribal 
tradition of medieval times. This system was widely used by scribes and readers 
who applied it for different ends. 

In other cases, the function of manuscripts lies beyond their status as carri¬ 
ers of information in the narrow sense. James Robson (“The Archive Inside”) dis- 


4 


Jbrg B. Quenzer 


cusses manuscripts found within religious statues in China, a tradition which can 
be traced back to India. These materials include paratextual data which locate 
the manuscripts and the statues in space and time, and offer clues to religious 
practices among the laity. 

Furthermore, one must take into consideration the numerous decisions that 
precede and accompany every single act of production or reception. Some of 
these are intentional decisions of the individual scribe, while others are deter¬ 
mined by other factors, such as the genre of the text, or the school or tradition to 
which the scribe belongs. These decisions could be related to the materiality of 
the manuscripts, the corporeality of the scribe and reader, and to the aesthetic 
and intellectual influence of anyone involved in the production and reception 
process. Dominik Wujastyk (“Indian Manuscripts”) focuses on the Sanskrit and 
Prakrit writing tradition from the century BCE to the 19* century CE. By sketch¬ 
ing out the main aspects of Indian manuscript cultures, he reconstructs various 
examples of scribal decision-making. Furthermore, he discusses problems of 
preservation, textual criticism and editorial technique. 

At a more abstract level, one must also take into account the relationship 
between manuscripts and the history of ideas or the history of thought. Christian 
Brockmann (“Scribal Annotation as Evidence of Learning in Manuscripts from 
the First Byzantine Humanism”) shows how, at a crucial moment in the history 
of textual transmission from Antiquity, the interaction of cultural and scribal 
innovations affected manuscript production, leading on the one hand to a renais¬ 
sance of ancient literature, and on the other to the development of a new type of 
script. Methodologically, his article is a fine example of how to apply traditional 
disciplines like palaeography to a larger cultural context. 

Using the same approach, Gudrun Melzer (“A Palaeographic Study of a Bud¬ 
dhist Manuscript from the Gilgit Region”) is able to reconstruct the very compli¬ 
cated vnriting process of a specific manuscript, which involved several scribes. At 
the same time, her article shows how closely the production of a manuscript may 
be related to broader religious developments: here to diminishing interest in a 
specific group of texts. 

One may then ask if similarities between the social and cultural contexts of 
different manuscript cultures on the one hand, and the material evidence on the 
other, allow for hypotheses regarding empirical typology and perhaps even uni- 
versals. The contribution of Sam van Schaik (“Towards a Tibetan Palaeography”) 
is a fascinating attempt to make use of Western categories of writing styles within 
Tibetan palaeography. In doing so, he is at the same time laying the ground for 
further research on the origins of Tibetan script. 

Last, but not least, manuscript studies are methodologically supplemented 
by drawing on methods from science and technology. While research on Euro- 


Introduction 


5 


pean artefacts has benefited from these methods for a long time, these kinds of 
analytical tools - aside from digitalisation - are not well-known to specialists in 
manuscript cultures outside of Europe. The article of Agnieszka Helman-Wazny 
(“Tibetan Manuscripts: Between History and Science”) is devoted to paper, which 
was the dominant writing support in Central and East Asia for more than 1,500 
years. By applying methods such as optical microscopy, dendrochronology, etc., 
she develops a new typology based on scientific examination. 

Information technology allows for large amounts of data to be compared and 
analysed according to objective criteria. Consequently, in contrast to the primar¬ 
ily subjective judgments in previous studies in the fields of Asian and African 
manuscripts, these methods enable more objective statements to be made, for 
example in palaeographic studies or about the identification of fragments. On 
the whole, they could help to identify standards of manuscript production in dif¬ 
ferent cultures. 

The distinctions presented above are, of course, heuristic. They are meant 
to facilitate analysis, although in many cases, it will be difficult to separate them 
absolutely. Depending on the characteristics of the culture, the object and the 
research question, they may be of unequal importance in different cases. In man¬ 
uscript studies, however, we need to keep the fact that manuscript cultures are 
complex wholes in mind. This is what the contributions presented in this volume 
try to exemplify. 


★ ★ ★ 


This publication is the result of two independent activities. In October 2007, Jan- 
Ulrich Sobisch, professor for Tibetan Studies at the University of Copenhagen, 
organised a four day workshop on “Manuscriptology.” This workshop convened 
20 speakers and about the same number of experts from around the world who 
discussed manuscript cultures from Iceland and Medieval Europe to India, 
Central and East Asian, all the way to Latin America. For many of them it was 
the first time to discuss scholarly problems outside their disciplines, a dialogue 
that was considered stimulating and productive by all participants. In both its 
thematic and methodological diversity, this conference marked to a certain extent 
the first manifestation of “manuscript studies” emerging as a cross-disciplinary 
and cross-cultural field of study, albeit not yet in a systematic way. 

The timing of this conference coincided with the culmination of activities at 
the University of Hamburg, where there had been a strong research interest in 
manuscripts for decades, especially in Asian philologies. Since 1972 there has 
been an ongoing Indological project of monumental proportions to digitalise and 
catalogue almost 200,000 manuscripts from Nepal (Nepal-German Manuscript 


6 


Jbrg B. Quenzer 


Preservation Project and its successor Nepalese-German Manuscript Cataloguing 
Project) funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research 
Association). In the years since, projects on Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Tamil, and 
Ethiopian manuscripts wrere to followr. 

Until the beginning of this century, however, these research interests were 
isolated from one another. The results of a project on “Sinological Manuscripto- 
logy” under the direction of Michael Friedrich served as a starting point to invite 
researchers from other disciplines at Hamburg as well as external experts, and 
finally, in 2007, a research unit “Manuscript Cultures in Asia and Africa” was 
established at the Asien-Afrika-Institut of the University of Hamburg receiving 
support from DFG beginning the following year. At the same time, a major pub¬ 
lication project was drafted; the Encyclopaedia of Manuscript Cultures in Asia 
and Africa (EMCAA), which is to appear in the near future. When other European 
disciplines, such as Art History, Musicology, and the Classics, joined in 2011, 
this research group gave rise to the DFG-funded Sonderforschungsbereich 950 
“Manuscript Cultures in Asia, Africa and Europe” and the associated “Centre for 
the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC).” Thus there exists now an institutional 
address for manuscript studies, the first of its kind. In addition to the cross-disci¬ 
plinary research conducted at CSMC, with its manuscript laboratory for imaging 
and material analysis, the Centre’s members are also actively involved in field 
work, such as the preservation of endangered manuscripts. The graduate school 
affiliated with CSMC serves to train the next generation of scholars and encour¬ 
age them to explore the new field. 

The current volume consists of contributions based on the previous work¬ 
shop in Copenhagen and is supplemented by articles by additional experts. With 
the exception of Latin America, all of the large manuscript cultures are repre¬ 
sented, characterised by their specific materiality, languages, and scripts, as well 
as their cultural traditions. Because of the methodological considerations out¬ 
lined above, significantly more space is given to regions and cultures outside of 
Europe. Similarly, special attention was paid to assemble pioneering investiga¬ 
tions conducted within the traditional sub-disciplines of these fields of research, 
namely palaeography and codicology. 

In conclusion, the editors would like first and foremost to express their grati¬ 
tude to the contributors for their enduring patience - and at the same time to 
apologise for the delays. The publication process was prolonged again and again 
for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, we hope that the results are worth the 
wait - and that the articles, both as individual ground-breaking studies and as 
a whole, will stimulate many colleagues to explore the promising field of manu¬ 
script studies. 


Introduction 


7 


Finally, the editors would like to express their immense gratitude to Cosima 
Schwarke (University of Hamburg) for managing the last stage of proofreading, 
and to Peter Agocs (University College London) for his careful style editing. 

Hamburg, September 2014 



Christian Brockmann 

Scribal Annotation as Evidence of Learning 
in Manuscripts from the First Byzantine 
Humanism: The “Philosophical Collection”' 

The body of ancient Greek literary, philosophical and scientific works, compris¬ 
ing contributions from such divergent authors as Homer, Pindar, Sophocles, Aris¬ 
tophanes, Hippocrates, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Ptolemy, and Galen, 
has been preserved in Greco-Roman Antiquity and in the Byzantine Empire for 
centuries and even millennia due to a continuous practice of manuscript work. 
In a permanent process of transmission, enrichment and innovation the text¬ 
books of Greek knowledge were copied, annotated, commented upon and used in 
teaching and research from generation to generation. Thanks to the interest and 
intense work of countless scribes, scholars, practitioners and readers the master¬ 
pieces of Greek literature survived into the modern era of printing and until the 
present day. 

The most crucial stage in this long-lasting practice of transmission falls 
within the 9* and 10* century, a period sometimes designated as the First Byz¬ 
antine Humanism.^ Two movements - a cultural and a graphical-medial one - 
moulded the manuscript culture of this era with lasting effects: Antiquity and its 
literature was once more restored to the centre of attention and exerted a strong 
impact on culture and on intellectual life. At the same time, the new minuscule 
script, developed from the common cursive script, became the predominant cal¬ 
ligraphic writing system.^ 

Without exception, manuscripts containing religious, literary or scientific 
texts and canonical works had been written in majuscule script throughout the 
many centuries of Antiquity and Late Antiquity. An ample amount of schol¬ 
arly energy was invested throughout the large-scale process of transliteration 
(metacharakterismos) and revision as this body of texts was converted into manu¬ 
scripts in the new minuscule script. Whereas the majuscule continued to be used 
in various forms to distinguish titles, tables of content and marginal notes, and 
still served as the main script for biblical and religious manuscripts, the process 
of transliteration was all but comprehensive when it came to literary, philosophi- 


1 For the English translation I owe a debt of thanks to Daniel Deckers, Johanna Cordes and Bet- 
tina Hdfermann. 

2 Lemerle 1971, Wilson 1983a, 79-147, Rosenqvist 2007, 58-69. 

3 Hunger 1989, 64-65; De Gregorio 2000; Harlfinger, 2000; Perria 2000; Ronconi 2003. 



12 


Christian Brockmann 


cal and scientific texts. This change in the medium correlates with a thorough 
revision of the transmission. The identification, collection and revision of texts 
focused on those works that were regarded as central to the history of literature 
and science or as pivotal to future research. This large-scale systematic translit¬ 
eration, while being a substantial scholarly and cultural achievement, thus left 
a marked dent in the transmission of Ancient Greek literary and philosophical 
works. This observation is strongly supported by the fact that the oldest extant 
integral manuscripts of such texts have with a rare few exceptions been produced 
during this era. 

Thus, the tides of time are not the sole cause of the loss of all but a few at 
least partially complete antique and late antique manuscripts, i.e. book rolls and 
early codices, though numerous smaller fragments survive. The prevalence of 
the minuscule script in the 9* and 10* century, and the concurrent translitera¬ 
tion contributed significantly to this development, for the new manuscripts did 
not just present themselves in new graphical attire, they moreover represented 
a more current, carefully and philologically revised state of knowledge. Thus 
anyone seriously pursuing scholarship had to rely on them, i.e. read in them and 
copy or excerpt from them, instead of on their older majuscule brethren. 

Before proceeding to look at some of the most famous manuscripts from this 
era of the First Byzantine Humanism, let us briefly consider the extent to which 
fragments and manuscripts from Antiquity and Late Antiquity have survived. 

A fundamental difficulty Classical scholarship faces compared to modern 
branches of literary studies is that no autographs or even manuscripts written 
by the author’s contemporaries survive. Even of the presumably numerous text¬ 
books produced in the centuries-long interim between Classical Antiquity and 
First Byzantine Humanism, only small fragments have survived for the most 
part. Thus, as a general rule we are dealing with a gap of at least twelve centuries 
between the creation of a work in the Classical period of Greece and the composi¬ 
tion of its oldest extant complete and reliable manuscript copy. 

Numerous surviving fragments from the huge amount of papyrus rolls from 
Ancient Greece help in filling this gap, and exceptionally fortunate circumstances 
have in some cases contributed to the survival of not too severely damaged papyri 
transmitting extensive literary texts in nearly integral form (e.g. the papyri of 
Aristotle’s Constitution of Athens and of some comedies of Menander). 

In the late Roman empire, in the 2°*^ to 4* centuries CE, the papyrus-roll lost 
its role as the main medium for preserving, circulating and transmitting literary 
texts to be replaced by a much more durable and resilient type of manuscript. 


Scribal Annotation as Evidence of Learning 


13 


the parchment manuscript in codex form.'* Though this change of material and 
structure to the nearly perfect form of a book, unchanged up to this day in its 
fundamental features, occurred at this early stage, few examples of this original 
codex production have been preserved. That rare group of precious manuscripts, 
written in majuscule script, includes the famous Bible codices of the 4*** century, 
the Vaticanus graecus 1209^ and the Codex Sinaiticus.® Manuscripts of secular 
literature are particularly rare, however a gem of pharmacological work and a his¬ 
toriographic manuscript have been preserved; the splendidly illuminated Vienna 
Dioscurides of the early 6* century (Vindobonensis medicus graecus 1)^ and parts 
of the Roman History of Cassius Dio Cocceianus (Vaticanus graecus 1288, 5* or 
century).® Additionally, more than 100 parchment leaves from a manuscript 
with Galen’s On the Powers of Foodstuff in a majuscule script from around 500 CE 
have been preserved in the Wolfenbiittel codex Weissenburgensis 64. However, 
the Weissenburgensis is a palimpsest codex, i.e. this text had been erased to reuse 
the leaves in the production of a new codex together with leaves from other man¬ 
uscripts, which are now in a shuffled and interspersed order as opposed to that 
of the original texts. The numerous leaves from the unbound Galen manuscript 
were mixed with leaves from Greek, Latin and Gothic-Latin manuscripts of the 
Bible as well as of Ambrosiaster’s commentary on the epistle of St. Paul to the 
Romans, dating from the late 5* to early century, which had also been disas¬ 
sembled to reuse their parchment. In the 8* century, all these leaves from the 
several manuscripts were erased, overwritten with a Latin work and bound again. 
Through this process, a codex of Isidor of Seville’s Etymologiae came into being.® 
Let us now turn away from these rare copies of complete Greek manuscripts 
from Late Antiquity and consider the vast body of minuscule codices from the 
Byzantine Middle Ages and the Renaissance that supplement the small number 
of older manuscripts. We shall take a closer look at some exceptional examples 
from the time of the First Byzantine Humanism, and in particular at what has 


4 Turner 1977; Goulet 2007, 34-36. 

5 A specimen is given in Follieri 1969, no. 1. 

6 <http;//codexsinaiticus.org/en/>. 

7 Facsimile; Dioscurides. Codex Vindobonensis med. gr. 1 der Osterreichischen Nationalbiblio- 
thek, Graz 1965-1970. 

8 Facsimile; Pius Franchi de’ Cavalieri (ed.) (1908), Cassii Dionis Cocceiani Historiarum Ro- 
manarum lib. LXXIX LXXX quae supersunt, codex Vaticanus graecus 1288 (Codices e Vaticanis 
selecti. Series maior 9), Leipzig. 

9 Falluomini 1999,11-46. Digital images of the codex; Wolfenbiittler Digitale Bibliothek, Codex 
Guelferbytanus 64 Weissenburgensis <http;//diglib.hab.de/wdb.php?dir=mss/64-weiss>. 



14 


Christian Brockmann 


been called the “Philosophical Collection”, dated to the third quarter of the 9* 
century, of which 18 manuscripts have been identified so far.“ 

Nine scribes cooperated to create this collection of philosophical and scien¬ 
tific works,^^ at whose centre we have the famous Plato codex Parisinus graecus 
1807^^ and manuscripts of Plato’s commentators Proclus, Damascius and Olympi- 
odorus from Late Antiquity (Laurentianus Plut. 80,9^^, Vaticanus gr. 2197, Mar- 
cianus gr. 196, Marcianus gr. 246, the palimpsest codex Par. Suppl. gr. 921). The 
further manuscripts comprise, inter alia, commentaries on Aristotle by Ammo- 
nius and Simplicius (Marcianus gr. 226 and the palimpsest codex Parisinus gr. 
2575^'*), works of Alexander of Aphrodisias {Quaestiones, On the soul, On fate - 
Marcianus gr. 258) and John Philoponus’ anti-Proclean On the Eternity of the 
World (Marcianus gr. 236). 

The learned scribes or their patrons also pursued other interests, as is par¬ 
ticularly evident in Vaticanus gr. 1594 containing the Almagest of Ptolemy, or in 
the Heidelberg multiple-text manuscript Palatinus gr. 398. The latter reunites 
rare geographical treatises, e.g. those on the naval explorations of the Black and 
Red Sea coasts and of the west coast of Africa, vdth assorted wondrous tales and 
metamorphoses, with mythology’s tragic love stories collected by Parthenius on 
behalf of the Roman poet Cornelius Callus, and vdth letters attributed to eminent 
figures such as Hippocrates and Themistocles.^ 

The scribe of the Heidelberg manuscript is identical to the scribe of the Plato 
codex Parisinus gr. 1807 (cf. figures 1 and 2). He must have been the leader or 
central figure in the group of scribes and scholars who compiled this collection, 
for Parisinus gr. 1962, Marcianus gr. 246, Laurentianus Plut. 80,9, Vaticanus gr. 
2197 and the original writing in the palimpsest Parisinus suppl. gr. 921 are also 
in his hand.^® Jean Irigoin further assigns the Vienna Aristotle codex Vindobo- 
nensis phil. gr. 100 to the circle responsible for the Philosophical Collection, 
as numerous marginal notes and interventions by a second hand, such as e.g. 
added punctuation and diacriticals of a peculiar, nearly horizontal shape, are 


10 Allen 1893; Wilson 1983a, 86-88; Westerink 1986, LXXlll-LXXX; Westerink 1990; Perria 1991; 
Brams 1999, 268; Hoffmann 2000, 621-623; Cataldi Palau 2001, 250-251; Rashed 2007a; Goulet 
2007, 54-57; Cavallo 2005; Cavallo 2007; Kavrus-Hoffman 2011, 17-29. Ronconi is opposing the 
idea of a coherent collection and devides the manuscripts into three different groups: Ronconi 
2012; Ronconi 2013. 

11 Perria 1991, 56-101, Cataldi Palau 2001, 252-255, Cavallo 2005, 254-255, Cavallo 2009. 

12 For online images refer to GaUica (cf. references). 

13 Online through the “Teca Digitale” (cf. references). 

14 Cataldi Palau 2001, with plates 52-57. 

15 Available online through “Heidelberger historische Bestande - digital” (cf. references). 

16 Perria 1991, 56-71; Cataldi Palau 2001, 252. 



Scribal Annotation as Evidence of Learning 


15 


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»n> yp Tniro ^ <r, • tAj>anD a* ^ : 

- ctrtTgp*^i^U,jD«Tirpy^Y-ay^^!r*'^»*t 
•nry 0 (Tv^V'yi t tCd 0 w 

(Tf |rl/^ it^ 1 oy *^411101111!^ • ^ iLyaj 
(^-Wiy-^druyTi^ y^nrTV(i^-^vy«y' 

1x0^ nnLy y 

•frtw* <fr^y^^Tun^ •■o ^ 

^ 10 'TT» y y Jtd y ^ ciV^ oj 

y£^oyJr0nj- a ^ d yA Y^^^I.rt^yliT 

• O^li^-gD air01<fT^ '. tlJl^ m y 


Fig- 1: Parisinus gr. 1807, fol. 3 (upper part). Bibliotheque nationale de France, source gallica. 
bnf.fr 


Strongly reminiscent of the style of punctuation and diacritical marks particular 
to the main scribe of the Collection.^^ The distinctive abbreviation for ap(peiajaai) 
(“mark this”), a stylised sigma and eta, also appears to be identical. What is more, 
the marginal notes used to structure the text contain catchwords in a particular 
small majuscule script that is reminiscent of that of the scholia and additions in 
the Plato codex Parisinus gr. 1807 (cf. fig.s 3,4 and 1).^® Additionally, Jozef Brams 
uncovered further traces pointing to a close interrelation between the Philosophi¬ 
cal Collection and the codex Vindobonensis in book 6, in book 7 and in the first 
four chapters of book 8 of Physics-}^ To illustrate the structure of these books in 
the Vindobonensis, its annotator systematically adds the same specific version 
of the paragraphos sign that we know the main scribe of the Collection used to 
mark structural units, and that can also be observed as a more general addi- 


17 Irigoin 1957, 7; Perria 1991, 98-100 and 56-62, in particular 60, fig. 2; Koch 2011. Irigoin points 
to examples of the characteristic added diacriticals and punctuation marks on fol.s 24 and 26v. 
Further similar additions may be found e.g. on fol. 6v at the beginning of Physics book 2 (images 
maybe consulted online through the Teuchos platform, cf. references). 

18 Cf. Irigoin 1957, 7; Perria 1991, 99 and 61, fig. 4; Koch 2011. Further examples for use of 
cq(pEia)aai): Vindobonensis Phil. gr. 100, fol.s 9, lOv, 189v, 199v; Parisinus gr. 1807, fol.s 9v, 300v; 
Palatinus gr. 398, fol.s 61v, 69v. 

19 Brams 1999, 273; Rashed 2001, 99. 





16 


Christian Brockmann 


•f niffrutioy nef'iif ui'TlTsurK 


T *.v -ni/i ey rrpa.Mtvi ji,Tj 




• » » • t « 


• » • » t 


S 

z 


(«. 

IB 

ir 


mpiR,ypt<oy 

nBpia6/LY^Kn.KC 

ni-ptfyYnnMc 

ntpxn.^yKtnniy 

riBptitnna.pt^ey 
nf-pTHpirin-Kc 
ne-pia® n,y wpi^c 
n epi R.ty Kur M.«c 
neplsyBr^iAos 
nrftK£n,^cy 
ne-pl£pna.n.yKMc 
* • «» * « • -«>» 


l*. ntpiA.Kfrfr'W'C 
ifr nBpYjv.z^'^Mc 
IS 

> f X -r — • 

riTHcnBptXTf^Mpc 

Ym ne-piKe-vips.c 

!♦ ntf tnA.rv'cpA.'iyc 

i< nfrf 1 a,Tpeyc 

KA. nfrpinfrx cyifuMC 

^ X 

i«» nepiNa.ui A£C 
i<r n(-ptVu»Kia.cc 
nC'prYnnLpmep 
nr'ft^A.yn.n.cy 


KS ntpxs.nptA.’mc 
f'fptln.KmiKt 
KK r.e-ptKn.M-p«t 
:«♦ nppt 

^ ^ r 

nfrptKe'VrtTtMt 

/u. r;e*pT4.TTVT«i'T®y 

AB nBp'iJLN.'frinn«c 

nr nfrptJLieA.eH.9c 

nJL n fr p Ti< 9 p y 9 y 

Rfr nepieyAiMfrwKc 

n!? neplaprvfru/Hnc: 


• '»*■» • • • -*>i» • ^ • <*4.. • • • ^ • t 


•t'nA-p-^-eHtoc Kop■N.M^,^uJ^^^^,n.^i^^ ^aTiptm 

t^TlDD ^ dV. Tii y iCf yxi'rV'fV T V ^ 

01 y »r®o y 6p w »rl luB Y •nra-rfrlAi^i.flrn*y 

^^^►yAyo O',® cr^^rl yJLp^^’^L. AJUJ ^ 

— t^a^Jj-iu’TTuya-j)»Tim-ptLrrl«Ti*TTi>ynnj^lA-TT»yTL^y^ 

ycu*TT>rrp»>y yJA-<irn>;T^ 7 -n) 0 ' ^iSj-Ayyi^y ooy.toArpu 
Qjp.a-y ojy^y ~T Tt y 

— axr^my cL^yLDfAjf OJ' cAj|iirT8y-l''-'njti-p.^ya^*iu'Uj6‘ 

-p®> y fry 6-y o ^ # y “* V 

•yyo'tnr.y «iArTtu<7'Vyfry-6^Ayfrfr^'^i^i»^' yvyi'rt'y 
nff^nypisoy X y^lAiffiy.oy-o^ay ttpmnu 
(yfr^oW-i^ov<yVjir if/rftur vm^fJAi<r<vy>S'vr>^x^^ 
ou-^Vv.* ij y ofr’rfr Ti-S^ ^ <( ^V-»pu»" 

fKva-Ua rfrlAitfry 'fry JU^aiir^To: ;irpUi.yT5v'><» 

M i c-n p i'*.rn p i. t . i^M. frve r«. « «-•? r'^ ^'' '^ 


Fig. 2: U niversitatsbibiiothek Heideiberg/Cod. Pai. graec. 398/173v. 



Scribal Annotation as Evidence of Learning 


17 


-Tj'— -v • o* jiAy;v«^:T 

a'^. 44^*j|f 'un Vl*<: V***^*"*^1* 

^»j: ^ \*K t^~m^ij^*>M~V*rm^ o» •««^d^ot^o Os^ 

_ ai/t a^lL4^Vai^. *w«i^t^«y««dL^uju ; Vr>^ao^*B^«Hj«J ■ 

I W*|«« 4jU«i oV'Mf^W ‘i#Vi*^iluo»i^«Y 'T* 

I**— currwi *v *&> 41 ,/x^ W* ^Y'H £ 

X‘ UtI*“ iyy«Y*^T»\a'«Y 

U.ai A ti U^ rw^^t *Ta>\:\«/xVM< cy^tAtagiy ^y 

II <^iY Y^Y*V«^ **^ ^ 


V - ^lugY**^*^"'***^*-*^** g-Y* w,-* «k(«fwg^Y t 

*<U' ’** *t^V"*Y **Y 

n>iiy^pCT*Y'*^ ^•/4V»''^^>tij\My*^Y*-^oY ■ 

-- «8t4 - ♦T»**^ »««<r^' ot^ Y"^ -ray .•^•wLui^-^y U^ YVa^«*'>^««Y’^*V ‘ 

— <«Y<<k^'4 '*1****^ ' 

U^o^ay.^ Y /^aiuAyyiAy^ '77*V**' ' 

• m ^fuv^nW* *»♦%/* 

»T«****«'‘*|f «tV^T« -vpa 'r^kyY'^^'^* Y *“ ^ 



- ««* ^ 

• at*T%* vf aRVC 

•T*S?:'»«rwa«i« 

‘^tJrl 


5 


Fig- 3: Vindobonensis Phil. Gr. 100, fol. 2A (lower half). Wien, Osterreichische Nationalbiblio- 
thek. Cod. Phil. Gr. 100 © ONE, publication courtesy of the Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek 


iMA4M<>>'pv''^“'®®j!r')5”'^ ' 

o^•\ul^6^•^: o"wV6>iv 

rnoinf^AlM'^'I^TCY^®'’'*'^ 'H')^- 

^o■tn^® ^ ^ .^y-nnLf lUrliif) 

og^- o^'mfifinif'M 
•ro"™! Of x» 1^*1* 

og <( luL^'Aon’Tajrpr’f •'T» 

^ v(i^ frp 0 y U»pyo y 0 ff* 0 ^ 
niT^ imi'Of f<urrTi*7Tjv li^ 


- cAYaT^irnLr|Vtvti^/l^rfCfrY»yu 
•^y^tv^ixirr* y ffv 
<^V 

OtTT^~V’®f $" 
yOt-ltCr® i|»^tAir'''^y 6r\iJiy^fTfrt»V^ 
cr^tn »Tfl I ti^Jv ^ 
e*\n^ 

^-oyuiity 0 yr V ® 

-rt ^il^irlfi^i Huu • o^>fTL|'<fal ^ IT^ 
dlrj^i O' ay 

nwy ocn^V *H ^^3 

pnKny^^^^V^X^V 

li^ y Ai/y<Of^6^*-» 

af ] fy iy cLv^^ 

•or^ 1 ^y a^ cr^Q) 0 y y ^ 0 yi 

crfrOj* ^rl^oiM^^^yury^viV^* $ 

vnnruTD y Vp 0 nuy • V Of V 

"4n*y ytlA^LiiTO<r6-#j^lA^a^yify 


Fig- 4: Parisinus gr. 1807, fol. 11 (upper part). Bibliotheque nationale de France, source gallica. 
bnf.fr 



18 


Christian Brockmann 


tion to the plain linear paragraph marks in other parts of the Vienna Aristotle.^” 
These specific pamgraphoi are distinguished by use of a light brown ink and by 
a strong vertical stem with a light s-shaped stroke added to it, making the whole 
look somewhat like a stylised, compressed letter tau. Brams showed this sign to 
have been used in marking those passages of the Vienna Aristotle that Simpli¬ 
cius covered in his commentary on Physics, and that the Simplicius manuscript in 
the Philosophical Collection, i.e. Marcianus gr. 226, exhibits the same marking of 
the corresponding passages. We may thus assume our annotator to have worked 
simultaneously on the Aristotle manuscript and on that of the commentary, and 
to have concurrently added these structural markers to them. While the ductus 
of the script and the characteristics of the symbols used are indeed strikingly 
similar between the Plato codex and the annotations in the Aristotle manuscript, 
the identity of the scribes is by no means ascertained beyond doubt Yet we may 
at least conclude that the style of the additional marginal notes and marks in the 
Vindobonensis point to the circle of scribes and scholars responsible for creat¬ 
ing the Philosophical Collection. Hence it seems safe to posit a close connection 
between the Collection and the Vienna Aristotle. 

In this section, we will consider several striking examples of how the anno¬ 
tator structured his Aristotle manuscript. The subject matter of numerous pas¬ 
sages is outlined briefly in short marginal notes in the particular kind of small 
majuscule script. Thus, in book 4 of Physics the summary of important opinions 
of Aristotle’s predecessors is labeled “opinions on time” (56^ai Trepi xpdvou, fol. 
24, on Physics IV 10, 218a33, cf. figure 3). A few lines later we have another note 
indicating the reasoning that time and movement or change are not identical (oti 
6 xpovoq ouK eoTi Kivpaiq, fol. 24, on Physics IV10,218bl0).^^ Many such pointers. 


20 From fol. 32v to fol. 47v (verifiable online). This sign’s use by the main scribe of the Philo¬ 
sophical Collection is particularly evident in Palatinus gr. 398, e.g. on fol.s 60, 61v, 62 and with 
an even more strongly stylised vertical stroke whose swash turns into a small cross (further cf. 
fig. 5 in Perria 1992, 70). While I found no evidence of this paragraphos used to mark passages in 
Parisinus gr. 1807, a similar sign is occasionally added to a scholion as a concluding ornament 
(fol.s 115, 146, not entirely dissimilar to that used in a marginal note on fol. 156 of Laurentianus 
Plut. 80,9). Further examples of this sign in other parts of Vindobonensis Phil. gr. 100 include 
fol.s 1, Iv, 147v, 157,176, 191. Fol.s 13v and 21v exhibit the sign next to structuring marginalia in 
the small majuscule script typical of the annotator. The sign is executed less meticulously as we 
proceed to the final books of Metaphysics in the Vindobonensis, with the vertical stroke losing 
straightened and plain. 

21 Irigoin 1962, 300 = Irigoin 2003, 218. 

22 Marginal notes adding similar structure may be found e.g. on fols. 38v, 44v and 45. The an¬ 
notator seems to have been particularly interested in passages dealing with time. This coincides 
with the fact that the Philosophical Collection also transmits the short treatise on time by Zach¬ 
ary of Chalcedon (in codex Marcianus gr. 258, fol. 324), a friend of eminent scholar and patriarch 



Scribal Annotation as Evidence of Learning 


19 






•A V.v*'J V* * n i nUvvi t(y 4 .,*4* V-T\>. 

V'l.-V-. 

U'TrAAMUff Uar \iiiMr-r 'T»<rr 4 - 

»V'>.Lyau V^'H' 

Un^-x« ya^i^Lny'-Vt'* • y »t a uxi^u 3 
— -| • bt^»y«y 4aX ^a^wu^.av Vl«4 •w: ^AjIVlK'T'wy ^ ^ *»«' 

• iTf- it/««li.Aij^ty.^nyW^yoy o-rrA ■trarl<b*i >tv ••rr ^ Vw 

'tm f>Avrr»y iMiy C%^W*lLas*^«w uaU '■y-ratk^ay ■ '«X(Uyoy 

'^•ra^May«pUAn«in-'<l^WM*iU.^V iyTrit»«lY^.^u« -TsroiUf^Umi 
f ptia^y i^U ay « « 4^ 1" 

ll«^ •w 4 f l»«Cyay -tii«a« ^1 W4 >«m<r 
^ » y •'vay n'aoTay : ^^yAyny »T^y K'S*'^ 'Hli* jO »»o4j>*y y<»j'«*' - 

V.4.«r.D*y ina^*'v4(y|tXArr«y \ioi* t rt vy« «r^i li«*y 
^/«^ Y^y •yn«*y oy-;t»y 'ty I y-Vn^y yja •y-na>y- *r V ^wnl»—tMj 

_-!«»*■ ^tly 4 ‘y «tM> alnv aoli ly v/y«y t»r- s ujImV y««~, tt*n*»v*'•tl »■ -ay 
' — *»n»C - •'iay- 4 y_V »y ■»*'i »v»/» '/^y A* W14 •>j V<!(cHy % .^ 4 - t*«4 

«>rwk ^ fT^y^**** * «^y«v 3 e«ai^ u <« y »y 


Fig- 5: Vindobonensis Phil. Gr. 100, fol. 23v (detail) Wien, Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, 
Cod. Phil. Gr. 100. © ONB, publication courtesy of the Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek 


including those cited, are introduced by an abbreviation consisting of eni with 
two letters chi above, which should likely be read as ETTixcipniioiTa, i.e. demon¬ 
stration or proof. We adduce further examples to illustrate our point; The various 
arguments against the existence of time in Physics IV10,217b32 are similarly intro¬ 
duced by our annotator (fol. 23v, fig. 5): £TTix(Eipf[paTa) oti ouk eotiv 6 xpdvog. This 
wording is strongly reminiscent of Simplicius, whose comments on this passage 
commence thus: “He puts forth three arguments that (purport to) show that time 
does not exist” (Tpia TiBpaiv EnixcipppuTa dciKvuvra oti ouk eotiv 6 xpdvog, Diels 
1882a, 696). Another example in support of our interpretation of the introductory 
abbreviation is found in the context of the arguments on the void and whether 
movement can exist within it, where the significant importance of this passage 
{Physics IV 8,215a24) is highlighted: £nix(£ipf[paTa) npaypaTEitudEOTaTa (fol. 22). 
This briefest of indications also alludes to the tradition of Aristotelian exegesis 
as evidenced by Simplicius’ comment on this passage, where the same adjective 


Photius (approx. 810-890). Klaus Oehler has edited this work and proven that one of the argu¬ 
ments proffered in it is based on exactly that passage of Physics (Oehler 1957, 34). One has to 
wonder whether there is a connection and if Zachary or Photius himself might have had access 
to this manuscript. However, it is quite uncertain whether the Philosophical Collection can be 
assigned to Photius’ circle (on this cf. below). 



20 


Christian Brockmann 


in its rare superlative degree is used to underline the weight of the arguments: 
Tag npaypaTEioJdeaTdTag vuv dnodci^Eig npoadyEi to) Aoyo) SEiKvug, oti ouk 
EOTai Kivpaig ev kevcI) (Diels, 1882a, 671). It is evident from these examples that 
the marginalia used to structure the manuscript and the extensive text of Aristo¬ 
tle are by no means spontaneously conceived marks of an arbitrary annotator, 
but rather indicate a learned and thorough familiarity with the Antique and Late 
Antique tradition of explaining Aristotle. The catchphrases in these annotational 
headings clearly allude to this context. The same most likely holds true for the 
cases where our annotator adds symbols or numbers instead of full marginalia 
to retrace the structure of the argument. E.g. on fol. 7 in the left margin, he adds 
additional pamgraphoi and letters representing Greek numerals in a light brown 
ink to the existing marks from the original hand. 

In the vicinity of the first examples (f. 23v, figure 5) we observe a philologi¬ 
cal intervention indicated in a thoroughly regular manner, namely an athetesis of 
several lines of text, i.e. the indication that these lines are either not original or 
had been transposed from their proper location. While this marginal indication is 
not due to our annotator, but to the scribe of the Vindobonensis himself,^^ it never¬ 
theless illustrates the mechanisms of manuscript work of the learned scribes and 
the long tradition from which they originate. In the case at hand, four lines of text 
are marked to be deleted by the double use of an inverted diple obelismene, both 
as interlinearily superimposed indicators of the beginning and end of the dubious 
passage and next to all four lines in the margin in the manner of quotation indi¬ 
cators. Additionally, “they are declared void” is added vertically in the margin: 
d0ETOuvTai {Physics IV 9, 217bl2-16).^'‘ The scribe most likely copied this term of 
textual criticism from the original he used, for this passage treating the line of the 
circle and various degrees of inclination had already been considered a duplication 
of a previous argument (from Physics IV 9, 217b2-6) by the exegetes of Late Antiq¬ 
uity. Thus, Simplicius summarily observed: “This passage seems to repeat what 
has been said before” (auxq q pqaig 5okeT xd npoTEpov cipqpCTa ndAiv AeyEiv).^^ 
He regarded these lines as uselessly rephrasing an argument vdthout adding any¬ 
thing to it, and observes, as he is wont, that the incriminated sentence was not 
present in all manuscripts. According to his judgement, we are dealing with what 
was originally a marginal note (a paragraphe) that was accidentally inserted into 
the main text by a scribe, and we may add, further transposed by a few lines.^® John 


23 Koch 2011. 

24 Ibid. 

25 Diels 1882a, 690. 

26 Diels 1882a, 691: [...] dAA' ekeIvwv Tiq ecti napdcppaciq' 6i6 Koi ev Tiaiv avTiypacpoiq ou cpEpETOi 
djq dno napaypacpfjq EiaEVEyOEiaa (xoiouToq Koi 6 tou Aoyou xupu^Tfip) [...]. 



Scribal Annotation as Evidence of Learning 


21 


Philoponus came to a similar conclusion and further informs us that “the exegetes 
do not consider (these lines) to be au then tic”.Evidently, there was agreement on 
this matter among the authorities interpreting the passage (even unto today).Yet, 
in their careful methodology, Simplicius and Philoponus treat the text with rever¬ 
ence, opting not to radically excise the passage from their manuscripts, but rather 
to observe their doubts in their commentary.^® As we have seen, the method used in 
the Vindobonensis Phil. gr. 100, the oldest extant manuscript of Physics, is not dis¬ 
similar: The passage has been left in the text, in the (inappropriate) location where 
it was found, but unambiguously indicated as spurious in the margin. 


^ Cw* e q\ V • 

*T* <rl TTV>KV Is <WT\UJ« 

hi^too KoeT" 

ooKap Hue’i«**>oo*roorivCi:a« 

» • V » C »/ r ♦'rr 

«> A«000«-»Tfo»* 

V ' »v, >* y 

"lOCO •'n6MKUfT*OOCafcX***-<^«t** 
•*^7- K.U tT*--• 4f*p N.u^*r^ 

\VV\ XiAPOCO Kt 

^6^‘u<V i*tTujL»*r» 

aVcUwa •w”r0e»K«**70«Tnj f •* o*Ti'*A 

•n ('UU iXp ***V- •TlJUKa*T*^rv 

0***V*^^' TOA/nToOxa c-‘* 

TTT«CctJLn»^*3«»JA» pfcp7t>tJT»i»>\fc ••♦f. U*n* 

^ TOAjrw c -m c* pa c^occ. «o tu*» y 

CUJTHO 0/A«C» pe^^jouOi MOi ^a ^ 

« fTVn ^€ y v 

6 K *l\)Kw*S«K«k47%V« 


Fig- 6: Plut. 87,6, fol. 229v © Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence, on concession of the 
MiBACT. 


27 Vitelli 1888, 701. 

28 Cf. Diels 1882b, 32 and the commentaries by Ross 1936, 594 and Wagner 1995, 586. 

29 The oldest extant manuscript of Philoponus’ commentary on Physics is Plut. 87,6 in the Bib¬ 
lioteca Medicea Laurenziana (12**' century, codex G in the editions of Aristotle and of Philopo¬ 
nus). It contains only Physics book IV, the text of Aristotle is quoted in lemmata followed by the 
commentary. The passage in question (fol. 229v) also has the addition dGETOuvrai in vertical 
lettering next to the lemma, followed by Philoponus’ commentary (figure 6, cf. online). On this 
codex cf. Vitelli 1887, V-VIII, XIII-XIV and Wiesner’s description in Aristoteles Graecus (Moraux/ 
Harlfinger/Reinsch/Wiesner 1976), the latter available online through the Teuchos site. 



22 


Christian Brockmann 


The second oldest manuscript of Physics, the famous codex Parisinus gr. 1853 
from the mid-10*^ century (codex E), that like the Vindobonensis has De caelo, 
De generatione et corruptione, Meteorologica and both the Metaphysics of Aris¬ 
totle and of Theophrast, and adds De anima and further treatises of the Parva 
Natumlia to these, treats the mentioned passage in the same way as the Vienna 
manuscript. On fol. 31, we observe the same indication dBcTouvTai in the right 
margin - most likely from the hand of the first annotator of the manuscripts (E^, 
10* century)^” - and plain oheloi to the left of the lines in questions (figure 7).^^ 


•’fri f V 

»n 9yt£fc**i\ f ^ c 


r • u-ffy -T^ ^kJt»,f m.o J -n SSa« ^^ K 

►rtU-fry * y-ayTLy ^*rt o y*j-»if ^ I Iazt*'* 

0V v^ltNCT*'• y .T® • y 

*Tt o* V»^ ® "art! I Wjr\ 

__ a iKW Mtf ^ A A I 


Fig- 7: Parisinus gr. 1853, foi. 31 (detaii). Bibiiotheque nationaie de France, source gaiiica.bnf.fr 


This careful indication of textual criticism in both codices is clear and presents 
evidence that the scribes and scholars involved in the production of these early 
minuscule manuscripts had access to older manuscripts of the highest quality 
that transmitted textual variants and observations of textual criticism. But the 


30 On this script cf. Moraux 1967, 29f.: Hecquet-Devienne 2000, 126-132; Rashed 2001, 37-38, 
43-48. 

31 Oniine through Gaiiica, cf. references. The further manuscript reievant to textuai criticism, 
Laurentianus Piut. 87,7, written by ioannikios (mid-12*'' century, codex F), has no indication that 
the passage in question might not beiong to the text (foi. 42v, cf. oniine). On this manuscript cf. 
Rashed 2001,131-159, and on the importance of ioannikios and his scribai coiiaborators further 
cf. Wiison 1983b; Vuiiiemin-Diem/Rashed 1997; Primavesi 2006; Brockmann 2008. 




Scribal Annotation as Evidence of Learning 


23 


manuscripts also bear witness to the thorough and expert nature of these scribes’ 
own work.^^ 

Let us now take a look on the very few passages that have been marked as 
particularly noteworthy by the annotator of the Vienna Aristotle manuscripts 
using the distinctive abbreviation for appciwaai. We find an almost completely 
faded example of this mark in the margin of fol. 8 facing a line of text that con¬ 
tains the famous central thesis of Aristotle’s on the natural generation and the 
part of the formal and efficient causes: “for man is generated by man and by the 
sun” (dvBpcjnoq ydp dvBpojnov yevvdi xai pAioq, Physics II 2,194bl3).^^ Perhaps 
surprisingly, our manuscript attests to a variant of this formula, for yevvdi was 
originally followed by e^ uApq. However, this was apparently recognised as a spu¬ 
rious addition at some point, and the words erased in the manuscript are now 
hardly discernable any more. The Parisinus gr. 1853 also has an erasure and cor¬ 
rection at this point, but its original content at that location can no longer be 
reconstructed (fol. 12). The resulting text is the same as in the Vienna Aristotle 
manuscript after the correction, which has been adopted by all modern editors 
with good reason. In the Laurentianus Plut. 87,7 ei, uApq, though not included in 
the main body of text, is superposed in a second hand (fol. 11, figure 8). Today’s 
major editions neglect to mention this textual variant or uncertainty attested in 
three of the most important manuscripts of Aristotle’s Physics. Obviously uApq 
should not be part of the text of an edition, but we should be aware (and be made 
aware) that even in passages like this the form of the text now considered to be 
unambiguously correct is based on thorough previous manuscript work from 
Antiquity through the Byzantine era. 

In the chapters on chance and spontaneity in Physics, the statement that 
some regard to automaton (i.e. spontaneity) as the cause of this world and of all 
worlds (fol. 9, Physics II4,196a24) is the first item designated as noteworthy. The 
nota bene mark also graces the lengthy argument’s final conclusion that nous and 
physis (reason and nature) have priority over spontaneity and chance and are the 
true and prior causes of the universe (fol. lOv, Physics II 6,198a9-13).^'‘ Further 
evidence for a particular interest in passages dealing with the heaven, the heav¬ 
enly bodies and their mechanics is found much later in the manuscript, where 
ari(p£i(uaai) marks a statement in book 9 of Metaphysics that “the sun and stars 
and the whole visible heaven are always active, and there is no fear that they will 


32 Cf. Diels 1882b, 19, 24f, but note Rashed’s unfavorable judgement on scribe E I of Parisinus 
gr. 1853 (Rashed 2001, 39). On the importance of the two manuscripts to the textual tradition of 
Metaphysics and De generatione et cormptione cf. Harlfinger 1979: Rashed 2001. 

33 On this thesis cf. Oehler 1962a, 260-288; During 1966, 530-533. 

34 The final passage has also been marked with aritpciwaai) in Parisinus gr. 1853 (fol. 15). 



24 


Christian Brockmann 



Fig- 8: Pint. 87,7, foi. 11 (detaii). © Bibiioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Fiorence, on concession of 
the MiBACT. 

ever stop - a fear which the writers on physics entertain.” (fol. 172v, Metaphysics 
IX 8,1050b22, transl. Tredennick, Aristotle 1968). 

Aristotle colours his theoretical discourse on time in book 4 of Physics with 
an unusual example he refers to as a mythical tale, and this passage (fol. 24), too, 
receives the mark (jri(p£iajaai). This myth is used to illustrate the observation that 
we do not perceive the passage of time unless we become aware of a change in our 
thoughts. “... as it also seems to those who are said to lie asleep in Sardinia among 
the heroes, for when they are awakened, they join the earlier Now to the later Now 
and make one of them, excising the in-between since they did not experience it.” 
{Physics IV11,218b23-27). According to Simplicius, these heroes are the nine sons 
of Hercules, whose bodies were said to have been preserved completely intact 
and whole after they met their deaths on the island. They had the appearance of 
sleepers, and it became customary to take a long sleep in their vicinity to receive 
dreams or experience other beneficial effects.^^ 

We may conclude from the occasional use of the nota bene indicator we have 
seen that it cannot be adduced as evidence for any systematical epistemological 
interest of the annotator. In the least, though, it does point to a certain fascina¬ 
tion with unusual theses or their refutation as well as for mythological matter and 
paradoxical thought.^*’ Occasionally, quotes from poets or allusions to them are 
also indicated in the margin,^^ as are key methodological conclusions of a theo¬ 
logical or scientific nature that may have been seen as useful quotes outside their 
original contexts, such as “the divine encompasses all of nature” or “we have to 


35 Diels 1882a, 707f. Further, cf. lohn Philoponus (Vitelli 1888, 717f.) as well as Rohde 1880 and 
Ross 1936, 597. 

36 Fol. 26 (referring to Physics IV 12, 221a22-23). 

37 Fol. 189v (referring to the shortened quote of Homer at the end of Metaphysics book 12, 10, 
1076a7) and fol. 199v (Metaphysics XIV 3,1091a5-10). 







Scribal Annotation as Evidence of Learning 


25 


partly research the details ourselves, and partly learn them from other research¬ 
ers, and if those who considered the matter provide evidence to the contrary of 
what has been said before, we have to appraise both opinions, but heed the more 
accurate one.”^® 

The discussed traces of learned intervention evident in the Vienna Aristotle 
manuscript place it within the vicinity of the Philosophical Collection in general, 
and of its main scribe in particular. This scribe has to be regarded as a man of 
learning, as shown e.g. by Westerink, who points to the evidence of extensive 
philological and critical intervention during the process of transcription in codex 
Marcianus gr. 246 (written in the same hand), which contains the treatise On the 
first principles of Damascius, considered to be one of the most intricate texts in 
Greek literature.^® In view of the outstanding quality of these manuscripts and 
their significance to the transmission of the Platonic and Neoplatonic works in 
particular, as well as of the singular beauty of some of them such as e.g. the Plato 
codex Parisinus gr. 1807, there have been many attempts to identify the main 
scribe (or his supposed client) with one of the more eminent Constantinopoli- 
tans of the time. The proposals include Photius, Leo the philosopher and, quite 
recently brought forth by Marwan Rashed, Bardas the regent, but it is doubtful 
that enough evidence will come to light to reach a consensus on this matter.'*” 

One of the main arguments in support of a link between Parisinus gr. 1807 and 
Leo is the marginal note on fol. 200 (i.e. Plato, Nomoi V 743b), frequently quoted, 
that indicates the conclusion of the corrections by the “great” Leo: T£A(og) tcI)v 
5iop0(aj)0£VTCJV uno tou peY(dAou) A£o(v)Tog (cf. fig. This note, set unusu¬ 
ally far in the margin to the outer right, is at least a few decades younger than the 
main text. It is unlikely to be from the same annotator of the 10*^ century who left 
traces on a few leaves, e.g. on fol.s 201 and 215 (fig. 10),'*^ but might be contempo¬ 
rary. Thus, our note may possibly be nearly a century or even more younger than 
the completion of the manuscript. Any conclusions from it to the original context 
of the manuscript’s creation, its owner or annotator must therefore be taken with 
more than a grain of salt. The entire note might, to add just one scenario, have 


38 Folio 188v (Metaphysics XII8,1074b3) and fol. 188 (Metaphysics XII8,1073bl3-17). 

39 Westerink 1986, LXXVII; Westerink 1990,122f. 

40 Cf. e.g. Irigoin 1962, 298-300 = 2003, 215-218; Wilson 1983a, 86-88; Westerink 1986, LXXVI- 
LXXX; Westerink 1990; Hoffmann 2000, 621-623; Rashed 2007a, 533-537; Cavallo 2007. 

41 Lemerle 1971,168; Wilson 1983a, 84; Irigoin 1962, 293 = Irigoin 2003, 207. 

42 The ductus of the annotator is reminiscent of that of scribe D of the Aristotle manuscript 
Parisinus gr. 1741 (cf. Tafel II b and c in Harlfinger/Reinsch 1970). Cf. the online images of the 
Bibliotheque nationale de France (Gallica, cf. references). The annotator supplied the text in 
two extensive lacunae on fol. 201 and 215, respectively (Nomoi 5, 745a-c; 6, 783b-d), for these cf. 
Irigoin 1986,12 = Irigoin 2003, 93; Saffrey 2007, 4f, 8. 



26 


Christian Brockmann 


^ et<AiT^®y 


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nM 


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irA|^*c 

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l^f 'l^HItC 


B 

r 


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^ ^rnu rt /1 'T^ I ^'•tn ^ y Txiifi V 

<^rrli itf tu ^ x^f'Xa ^fT» y •f'^troToj 
y ct'rr^^^ji' { •nrpi.cT^® 1 fr^Srr^ 
y rti* oulif>\iy mron^a^rn^y 

\Ay4 fT^E y tty ci.^^^i.nijmy^o 

rYnA^f ftyrl nT»\n^ V'nryttrrv*' 

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tf lUyTl rftTtrr'»TT»trt»yjD<AA' 

^wIuiIlb O' 4 o ^ (fV-* ^"fr • 

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'rr* 


( 

t 


Fig- 9: Parisinus gr. 1807, fol. 200 (upper part). Bibliotheque nationale de France, source 
gallica.bnf.fr 


been copied from another manuscript. These questions should undergo a new 
and thorough investigation that will in particular have to consider the Plato codex 
Vaticanus gr. 1 that has this same note. 

To conclude our appraisal of the Philosophical Collection, let us take another 
look at the most famous manuscript from the Collection, the Plato codex Parisi¬ 
nus gr. 1807, which is known to have found its way to the Latin west in the 14* 
century and can most likely be identified with Petrarch’s Greek Plato manu¬ 
script.'*^ This codex is the second volume of a formerly complete edition of Plato 
in manuscript form. It contains tetralogies VIII and IX as well as the pseudo-Pla¬ 
tonic treatises.'*'* There is strong evidence for it indeed being part of a complete 


43 Oilier 1964; Saffrey 2007,14-23. According to Saffrey (2007, 5-23), the Parisinus gr. 1807 and 
its twin, i.e. the first volume of the complete works of Plato, may have been brought to Armenia 
in the ll* century and there used as the source for the Armenian translations of Plato, then to 
Avignon in the W'** century and thence into the possession of Petrarch, a fascinating argument. 

44 Erbse 1988, 258; Irigoin 1994a, 151f. (first published 1986); Boter 1989, 45-48, 112; Saffrey 
2007, 3. 



Scribal Annotation as Evidence of Learning 


27 


^AiQMp 

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'-^ r-i' '• f-^ *~'l'i~^f '.'" 


Fig. 10: Parisinus gr. 1807, fol. 215 (lower part). Bibliotheque nationale de France, source gallica. 
bnf.fr 


edition in two volumes both in the arrangement of the Platonic dialogues accord¬ 
ing to the tetralogies as well as in the consecutive numbering of the dialogues or 
their individual books. Notably, the first dialogue in the Parisinus, Kleitophon, 
has the number k0 (= 29) underneath its title, followed by the books of the Polit- 
eia, individually numbered from A (= 30) for the first book.'*^ We may, as did Erbse 
and Irigoin, take this numbering, clearly intended to cover the whole, to attest 
to the former existence of a first volume covering dialogues 1 through 28, i.e. the 
tetralogies I through VII.''® Thus, we agree with Westerink''^ that the Philosophical 
Collection must originally, i.e. upon its inception in Constantinople in the third 
quarter of the 9**^ century, have contained another Plato codex, and there must 
thus have been a complete edition in two volumes. While the first volume is now 
lost, at least a descendant of it from several decades after has survived in the form 
of a manuscript from the hand of the highly productive scribe Ephraim, preserved 
as the Venice codex Marcianus 4, 1. This manuscript from the mid-10* century, 
however, is probably not a direct copy of the lost first volume of our Plato from 


45 Fol. 1 and fol. 3, cf. the online images of the Bibliotheque nationale de France (Gallica, see 
references). Cf. fig. 1. 

46 Erbse 1983, 258; Irigoin 1994a, 151f. (first published 1986). 

47 Westerink 1986, LXXV; Westerink 1990,107. 




28 


Christian Brockmann 


the third quarter of the 9* century, we must rather reconstruct an intermediate 
stage in between.''® Evidence for this has been brought forth by Boter in his direct 
comparison of the first books of Politeia in Parisinus gr. 1807 and Marcianus 4, 
1. This comparison is possible because the Marcianus’ original textual content 
from Ephraim’s hand does not conclude wdth tetralogy VII as the posited first 
volume complementary to Parisinus gr. 1807, but continues with Kleitophon and 
the beginning of Politeia through to book 3, 389d.'‘® Thus, the scribes of later 
manuscripts deviated from the devision of the complete works after tetralogy VII. 
And yet the Marcianus 4,1, as Erbse and Boter have pointed out, contains a clear 
trace of a former split at the very location marked by the Parisinus gr. 1807 and 
its hypothetical first volume counterpart; At the end of tetralogy VII, the Mar¬ 
cianus 4,1 has a note evidently referring to the arrangement in its predecessor: 
“End of the first volume’’.^” Boter’s conclusion that the Marcianus is not a direct 
descendant of the Parisinus where the first books of Politeia are concerned has 
far-reaching implications. One may assume that the same would hold true for the 
other parts that can no longer be compared to this manuscripts predecessors, i.e. 
the Platonic dialogues from tetralogies I through VII, and that, as a consequence, 
Ephraim did not have access to Parisinus gr. 1807 and its counterpart for his work 
on the Plato manuscripts in the mid-10* century, but he rather used a no longer 
extant copy of these two earlier manuscripts. With both the first volume of Plato 
from the Philosophical Collection and the postulated reconstructed intermediate 
copy of the entire Plato now lost, the Marcianus 4,1 must today be considered the 
most important and oldest Plato manuscript in this branch of the transmission for 
the first seven tetralogies of the Platonic dialogues, alongside the seven to eight 
decades older codex vetustissimus Parisinus gr. 1807 for the remainder. Put more 
simply: the Plato manuscript from Ephraim’s hand is the surviving representative 
of an older manuscript that once formed part of the Philosophical Collection. 

Since we have been considering the oldest Plato manuscripts in minuscule 
script, two further important codices should be mentioned briefly in conclusion, 
whose times of origin fall between those of Parisinus gr. 1807 and Marcianus 4, 
1.1 refer to the manuscripts E.D. Clarke 39, i.e. the Oxford Bodleianus (Codex B, 
the oldest manuscript of the first 24 dialogues, tetralogies I through VI), and the 


48 Erbse 1983, 258; Irigoin 1994a, 156 (first published 1986); Boter 1989, 56, 111-118; a sample 
from the codex to be found in Brockmann 1992, Abb. 39. On the scribe Ephraim cf. Prato 1982. 

49 The part in Ephraim’s hand ends at this point, the missing books have been supplied from 
other codices in the 15*^ century. Boter 1989, 55f.; Brockmann 1992, 34. 

50 Erbse 1983, 258; Boter 1989,112. 



Scribal Annotation as Evidence of Learning 


29 


Vaticanus gr. 1 (Codex 0, Nomoi etc.) from around 900 CE.^^ The details on the 
Clarkianus are known from its preserved colophon which informs us that the 
manuscript was written in the year 895 CE by the calligrapher John on behalf of 
Arethas, Deacon of Patras (the later Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia) 
Numerous scholia and marginal glosses are from Arethas’ own hand. There is no 
agreement whether the same holds true for a group of marginalia in Vaticanus 
gr. 1.^^ These short pointers on these latter manuscripts must suffice, as a more 
thorough examination is outside the scope of this paper which is intended as a 
first introduction to the bountiful field of research into the manuscripts of clas¬ 
sical texts from the Byzantine period, drawing on representative examples from 
the earliest minuscule script codices. The manuscript work of the scholars and 
scribes during the First Byzantine Humanism is rooted in the exegetical traditions 
of Antiquity and Late Antiquity and anticipates that of generations to come. This 
is evident in the manuscripts they wrote and annotated, which speak to their 
efforts to provide structure to the abundance of texts and knowledge, and to adapt 
and update it according to their philological, critical and exegetical approaches. 
These manuscripts attest to these scribes’ and annotators’ scholarly creativity, 
their effort, achievements and merits, and they can be used to retrace intellectual 
circles and centres of joint work on the manuscripts. Their approach is character¬ 
istic for Greek and Byzantine manuscript culture, and was replicated in subse¬ 
quent periods, as is evident e.g. in the manuscript work by such eminent scholars 
of the 13* and 14* centuries as Maximos Planudes, Georgios Pachymeres and 
Demetrios Triklinios, or later, in the Renaissance, by Bessarion. Greek and Byz¬ 
antine manuscript culture is a rich field of research lending itself particularly to 
comparative approaches in the context of manuscript research as a general field. 


51 Facsimile of E. D. Clarke 39: Allen 1898-1899, online <http://bodley30.bodley.ox.ac.uk:8180/ 
luna/servlet/view/all/wbat/MS.+E.+D.+Clarke+39>. A sample from Vaticanus gr. 1: Follieri 1969, 
No. 19. 

52 Allen 1898-1899, V, fob 418v; Irigoin 1994a, 154 (first published 1986); Brockmann 1992, 37f. 

53 Follieri 1969, No. 19: Wilson 1983a, 129; Perria 1990, 72-75; Brockmann 1992, 37-41. 



30 


Christian Brockmann 


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Alessandro Bausi 

Writing, Copying, Translating: Ethiopia as a 
Manuscript Culture' 

1 Introduction 

Beginning with the remote past of the Aksumite kingdom (1®‘ to centuries CE, 
an “African civilization of Late Antiquity”), the Ethiopian cultural area offers a 
peculiar case study for the “manuscriptology” of ancient, medieval and modern 
times. Historically a land of written civilizations since the beginning of the 1®* 
millennium BCE, the areas nowadays corresponding to the highlands of Eritrea 
and Northern Ethiopia witnessed the early introduction of the parchment roll 
and codex, the latter having been strongly fostered by the Christianization of the 
country in the 4* century CE. Taking advantage of the safe, dry climate of the 
Abyssinian highlands, which makes chemical treatment quite unnecessary, man¬ 
uscript production has enjoyed a steady run of centuries, down to the present 
day. Even now, parchment is still produced in several areas of the region. Mainly 
an object of interest to historians, philologists and linguists as precious reposito¬ 
ries of written historical and linguistic data, the Ethiopian manuscripts written in 
Ethiopic (especially literary texts), and to a lesser extent in Amharic (especially 
documentary texts), Arabic and Harari (in Islamic contexts), have not yet become 
a topic of codicological study within the frame of modern, so-called “manu¬ 
script archaeology”, nor have they been properly assessed from a comparative 
or quantitative perspective. The estimated number of manuscripts ranges from a 
minimum of 25,000 to 200,000, and the figure may even be higher if we take into 
account the treasure of still unexplored and hardly accessible manuscripts pre¬ 
served in the Tegray monasteries, the “cradle” of Ethiopian civilization. Despite 
the relatively recent age of most Ethiopic manuscripts (among which only two or 
three Four Gospels books may predate the 12**' century), several archaic features 
which Ethiopian culture has inherited from Mediterranean Late Antiquity make 
codicological evaluation all the more desirable. Nowadays, however, observable 


1 I would like to thank most sincerely the organizers of the Workshop in “Manuscriptology”, Oc¬ 
tober 8-11, 2007, University of Copenhagen, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, 
for having offered me the unique opportunity to put forward a wide range of problems pertain¬ 
ing to a variety of disciplines. I would like to extend my thanks to Dmitry Bondarev, who has 
so competently and patiently taken care of the editorial revision of this paper, as well as to the 
anonymous reviewer for his equally patient and careful reading. Usual disclaims apply, i.e. the 
final text is entirely my own responsibility. 



38 


Alessandro Bausi 


features (or even features traceable to medieval times) cannot be mechanically 
identified as archaic traditional practices. Ethiopian production of parchment 
and codices must have been of primary importance even in ancient times, bearing 
in mind that Islamic sources unanimously accredit the “invention of the codex” 
to African people and that the Arabic term mushaf‘codex’ (almost entirely asso¬ 
ciated with the Qur’an codex) was borrowed from Ethiopic. Ink production is 
an important material aspect of manuscript studies. Ethnographic observation 
of surviving examples, as well as philological and linguistic data (i.e. study of 
terminology) attest to the absence of metallic ink in Ethiopia, although it was 
widely used both in other Christian and in Islamic provinces in course of the 1®^ 
millennium CE. Yet much is expected from reliable laboratory analyses. As far as 
transmission is concerned, Ethiopic manuscripts reveal substantially “mechani¬ 
cal” textual traditions. This strongly clashes with both the purported predomi¬ 
nance of orality in Africa and (as an assumed consequence) copyists’ arbitrari¬ 
ness in transmitting texts. Documentary texts may present peculiar transmission 
phenomenology. Yet, copyists’ actual attitude to the transmitted texts can only 
be ascertained through manuscript collation, which has not yet been extensively 
done for most printed editions of Ethiopic texts. I vdll present a panoramic view 
of the state of the research on Ethiopic manuscripts, and then a particular case 
study of “manuscript philology” that focuses on “gaps”, “adjustments” and “nor¬ 
malization” in the chain of traditional textual transmission. 


2 A long written tradition 

The peculiarities of manuscript production in Ethiopian culture find their origin 
in the very late introduction of printing, whose extensive use does not predate the 
20‘*' century. The existence of a writing tradition three millennia old is no doubt 
the most paradoxical and exotic aspect of Ethiopian civilization (historically 
understood) in the context of Africa south of the Sahara.^ Geographically included 
in, though not corresponding to the political boundaries of the present indepen¬ 
dent states of Eritrea and Ethiopia, the geographic area of Ethiopian civilization 
is one of extreme linguistic and anthropological variety. The long continuity of 
the South-Semitic written tradition has made it the subject of linguistic, philo¬ 
logical and historical studies which have been relatively consistently focused on 
long-lasting cultural features, from the origins of the civilization through ancient 


2 Cf. Munro-Hay 1991; Brakmann 1994; for an updated and comprehensive presentation of all 
the main topics in Ethiopian Studies, see EAe. 



Writing, Copying, Translating: Ethiopia as a Manuscript Culture 


39 


and medieval times to the premodern and - in some respects - the modern ages. 
The earliest evidence of vyriting in the area is represented by monumental and 
cursive Sabaic inscriptions which date to the mid-l®‘ millennium BCE (probably 
the 8*^-7**^ centuries). These bear witness to the strong influence of the South 
Arabian civilization then flourishing on the opposite side of the Red Sea, which 
probably settled on African soil over an earlier South-Semitic substratum also of 
Asiatic origin.^ 

Mentioned in various sources since the 1®* century CE, the “Kingdom of 
Aksum” - named after its capital city in Northern Ethiopia, in present-day Tegray - 
reached its peak of power in the period from the 3"^ to the 7*^ centuries CE, after 
centuries of development. It represented - in ways not yet really clear - a well 
rooted Semitic civilization, increasingly penetrated by the Greek culture circulat¬ 
ing along the shores of the Red Sea since the Hellenistic age. Near-Eastern South- 
Arabian, African and Asiatic components all influenced it, alone, mutually, and in 
combination. Starting from the 3”^ century at least, evidence of inscriptions (until 
the S*** century) and coins legends testifies to the use of Greek as well as Ethiopic 
(also known as Ancient Ethiopic or Ge‘ez).'‘ A South-Semitic language easily dis¬ 
tinguished from South-Arabian (whose alphabet - not the language - was occa¬ 
sionally used in royal inscriptions), Ethiopic was destined to be the only vnritten 
language of the Kingdom for a millennium and a half, well after it had ceased to be 
spoken or had become a different language, Tigrinya (probably around the turn of 
the 10*^ century). As will be shown, the language change had its “manuscriptologi- 
cal” consequences for the transmission of Ethiopic texts. 

Conversion to Christianity, introduced in Ethiopia in the 4* century CE and, as 
Cosmas Indicopleustes attests in his Topographia Christiana, widely established 
throughout the East by the first half of the 6*, had a major and lasting impact 
on Ethiopian culture. The Ethiopian Church, whose official language was always 
Ethiopic, remained subordinate to the Egyptian Church of Alexandria, whose offi¬ 
cial language was initially Greek, later Coptic and finally Arabic, almost without 
interruption until the 20* century.^ Aksum reached the height of its glory as the 
main military partner of the Byzantine Empire in the early 6* century, when South 
Arabia had also been under Aksumite control for some decades. The emergence 
of Islam in the 7* century followed by the occupation of the African coasts in the 
8*, dramatically put an end to Ethiopia’s central role in the trade routes along the 


3 Cf. Marrassini 2003b. For inscriptions, cf. Bernand / Drewes / Schneider 1991; Bernand 2000; 
cf. also Avanzini 2007a; Muller 2007; and Marrassini 2014. 

4 Cf. Fiaccadori 2007a; Avanzini 2007b; Frantsouzoff 2007; Fiaccadori 2007b. 

5 The Ethiopian Church became completely autocephalous only in 1959 with Patriarch Baselyos, 
cf. Chernetsov 2005. 



40 


Alessandro Bausi 


Red Sea, as well as to its intense relationship with other areas of Christian culture. 
In the following centuries, the core of the Christian kingdom moved progressively 
southwards from Aksum to Lalibala, the rockhewn capital of the Zag'^'e dynasty in 
the 12*** century, until it reached Amharic-speaking areas, where it has been mainly 
based since the 13*** century. At the southern limits of the kingdom, Addis Ababa, 
the present capital of Ethiopia, was founded at the end of the 19* century. Yet, 
the heritage of Aksum deeply marked the history of the whole Ethiopian area. The 
Christian kingdom played a hegemonic role in the region until the 20*** century. 

It is surprising, however, that mashaf, the most general Ge‘ez term for ‘manu¬ 
script, book, writing’ in all its meanings, was borrowed into Arabic, where mushaf 
became a technical term for a Qur’anic codex. This seems to imply that Ethio¬ 
pian production of parchment and codices must have been of major importance 
even in pre-Islamic and early Islamic times, and that the Arabs, “people of the 
Book” par excellence, adopted the use of the codex from the Ethiopians, who had 
received it in turn from the late antique Near-Eastern and Mediterranean world. 
This hypothesis is confirmed by a relatively ancient Islamic tradition attested in 
the middle of the 9*** century by Abu ‘Uthman al-Jahiz in his Fakhr al-suddn ‘aid 
l-biddn (‘The boasts of the Blacks over the Whites’).® 

As an “African civilization of Late Antiquity”, the Aksumite kingdom partici¬ 
pated intensively in cultural movements and exchanges between the Near East, 
the Mediterranean and the Red Sea during the first Christian centuries, right 
down to the 7* century. More than that, modern Ethiopia has faithfully retained 
some features of this cultural environment: be they religious practices, literary 
texts, artistic motifs or elements of material culture. The same happened well 
after the medieval age in other areas of the Christian Orient, of which Ethiopia 
has been an integral, though remote component for centuries. Yet, due to its long 
isolation, it is likely that archaic elements are more easily to be found in Ethiopia 
than in other countries.^ 

In the script used in the earliest Ethiopic monumental inscriptions, round 
letter-forms proper of soft text-carriers are more prevalent than in the compa¬ 
rable South-Arabian inscriptions. This seems to demonstrate that manuscript 
writing, probably on parchment rolls and codices - there is no evidence for the 


6 Cf. Uhlig / Bausi 2007a, 739b-, Bausi 2008a, 521, n. 44. 

7 Cf. Marrassini 1999, 238. 



Writing, Copying, Translating: Ethiopia as a Manuscript Culture 


41 


use of papyrus in Ethiopia® - was introduced in the 3'''^ century at the latest.® 
The ancient and deeply rooted practice of parchment manuscript production was 
certainly favoured by the dry, healthy climate of the Abyssinian highlands which 
makes use of chemical treatment rather unnecessary. Parchment has been the 
main medium for transmitting written knowledge (including documentary texts) 
for over 1500 years, up until the 20* century. In some areas it remains in use to 
the present day.^” Since the country’s Christianisation, Ethiopic manuscripts have 
been responsible for the diffusion and transmission of a literary corpus translated 
from Greek into Ethiopic which is instrumental to Christian practice: including 
the Bible with several Apocrypha and various patristic writings (theological, 
liturgical, hagiographic, homiletic, and monastic works). This Aksumite corpus 
survived in the course of time through complex processes of transmission. Some 
parts survived through copying, while other texts (starting in the 13* century) 
came down to us as translations from Arabic into Ethiopic. All these were trans¬ 
mitted on parchment. Interestingly, from the 10* century onwards copyists prob¬ 
ably did not speak the language of the texts that they were copying. 

During the obscure and scarcely documented period between the Aksumite 
(the 4* to 7* centuries and beyond) and post-Aksumite ages (which began in the 
12* century), written culture was affected by traumatic events with a consequent 
loss of whole corpora of texts. Besides material factors, this was probably due to 
changes in linguistic standards. That is, translated texts had become virtually 
unintelligible even to the clergy. The combined effects of linguistic change on 
the one hand, and both decline in literary culture and long textual transmission 
by copying on the other, led to extensive textual corruption. In consequence, 
ancient Aksumite translations were either superficially revised or transformed 
by complex and unexpected processes (what I will briefly present below is evi¬ 
dence of one such case), abandoned or even totally replaced with newer ones.^^ 
No wonder that the traditional teaching transmitted in ecclesiastical schools 
has sometimes no understanding of ancient texts or of the practices mentioned 
therein, the memory of which has definitely vanished. This past - in a way, a 
“classical past” rooted in the Aksumite period - can be recovered only if it is com- 


8 The very recent description of the Four Gospels Books of Abba Garima by its restorer, however, 
includes the important remark that the binding of the first of the two manuscripts bears traces 
of deteriorated papyrus: and this, as far as we know, would be the first evidence for papyrus as 
book material in Ethiopia, cf. Capon 2008, 7; Mercier 2009,112; Bausi 2011a. 

9 Cf. Cohen 1931, 131; on palaeography, cf. also Grohmann 1915; Drewes 1955; Schneider 1983; 
1986; 1995; Uhlig 1988; 1990; Getatchew Haile 1996; Lusini 1999a; Bausi 2004a; 2008a; Boll 2007; 
Uhlig / Bausi 2007b. Cf. also Bausi / Nosnitsin 2014. 

10 Cf. Mellors / Parsons 2002a; 2002b; 2003. 

11 Cf. Bausi 2005a; 2005b; 2006a; 2006b; 2006c. 



42 


Alessandro Bausi 


pared with its late antique original context; also, it is better understood if con¬ 
trasted against other ancient Christian and Christian oriental traditions - for both 
of which, in turn, the contribution of Ethiopian studies may be of extraordinary 
importance. 

It would not make sense to study Ethiopic manuscripts without consider¬ 
ing the cultural context in which they originated: namely that of Late Antiquity 
and the Christian East. The myth that Ethiopian Studies is a self-sufficient field 
and/or a minor part of African Studies has often helped to obscure one essential 
truth: that the mere existence of its manuscript tradition clearly shows that Ethio¬ 
pian civilization was deeply influenced by Mediterranean, Byzantine and Near 
Eastern cultures. The preservation of ancient techniques and their application 
by modern copyists, however, have attracted the attention of only a few schol¬ 
ars.Notwithstanding some recent initiatives, Ethiopic manuscripts have not yet 
become a subject of codicological study within the frame of modern “manuscript 
archaeology”,^^ nor have they been properly examined from a comparative or 
quantitative (chronological distribution, format, size typologies etc.) perspective. 

Present-day manuscript production practices, even those showing features 
traceable to medieval times, do not have any absolute or paradigmatic value, nor 
can they be mechanically interpreted as reflecting ancient traditional practices. 
This does not, however, mean that no archaic features were retained in manu¬ 
script production and other aspects of Ethiopian social and religious life. Man¬ 
uscript production simply underwent its own - mainly internal - development 
over time. This can be illustrated by the following examples. 

It is commonly said that one and the same person took care of all phases 
of manuscript production, from parchment preparation to writing and binding; 
something observed nowadays, and still customarily taught in a few surviving 
traditional schools. However, we have evidence for other modes of book-produc¬ 
tion as well. The Ga'az term berhanna, probably a pseudo-etymological spelling, 
as in Amharic, for the original berdnnd, specifically means ‘parchment’.^'' The 
colophon of a manuscript in Pistoia’s Biblioteca Forteguerriana, Martini etiop. 5, 
fol. 195rb, which dates to the first half of the 15* century (1437/1438) during the 
reign of King Zar’a Ya‘qob (1434-1468) and belongs to a series of monumental 
Biblical “Octateuchs” (i.e. Genesis, Leviticus, Exodus, Numbers, Deutoronomy, 


12 A short documentary has also been produced in 2001, cf. Sobania / Silverman 2000. 

13 Cf. Maniaci 2002; Agati 2003; 2009; Gehin 2005. Cf. now Balicka-Witakowska / Bausi / Bosc- 
Tiesse / Nosnitsin 2014. 

14 The term is etymologically unclear: either from *brh ‘be light, be clear’, or (more likely) from 
Latin memhrana, through Greek pcpppdva. 



Writing, Copying, Translating: Ethiopia as a Manuscript Culture 


43 


Joshua, Judges and Ruth) of large size (195 foil., 2 cols., 465 x 350 mm), offers an 
interesting piece of evidence. The colophon reads:^ 

The Book of Ruth from the Octateuch has been finished. And this book was written in the 
ninetieth year of Mercy: it was started in the month of Yakkatit and finished in the month 
of Nahasi, [while] our King [was] Zar’a Ya‘qob and our Metropolitan ’abba Bartalomewos. 
It was Our Father Gabramaryam who had it written: let God write his name on the golden 
pillar by a bejewelled pen in the Heavenly Jerusalem with all his [spiritual] sons for ever 
and ever. Amen. Malka Sedeq wrote the Book of Numbers, Deutoronomy and Joshua, while 
I myself, Pawlos, wrote the other [books]. If we added or omitted anything, either wittingly 
or not, forgive and bless us for ever and ever. Amen. And bless the makers of parchment, 
because they laboured much. 

The colophon demonstrates that in this case the ‘parchment makers’, sarahta 
beranna, were definitely distinct from the copyists, who are mentioned by their 
names, IVialka Sedek and Pawlos. JVloreover, the making of the book was “team 
work”, because at least two copyists took part in it. They probably worked at the 
same time, as can be guessed from a codicological analysis of the manuscript; 
IVialka Sedeq’s portion of the text (Numbers, Deutoronomy and Joshua, on foil. 
93-173) is written on a separate set of quires and the whole work took no longer 
than six/seven months. On the other hand, Pawlos is mentioned again in a caption 
(on fol. 5v) as the artist of an illustration that shows IVloses with Joshua and Aron 
receiving the Tablets of the Law: although we do not know how frequent such 
illuminations were at the time, copyist-painters are not at all frequent today.^*’ 
Another example of manuscript production by “team” is the long subscriptio 
(fol. 574v), with a colophon to a second, even more monumental manuscript (576 
foil., 3 cols., mm 489 x 390) preserved in the monastery of Dabra Bizan (Eritrea). 
The manuscript, which contains the so-called 81 Canonical Books (the whole 
Bible plus apocryphal and canonico-liturgical writings) is dated to the reign of 
King ’Eskender (1478-1494) at the end of the 15* century (1491/1492). As the abbot 
Tawalda IViadhen, who donated the manuscript to the monastic community, 
declares in the long and elaborated subscriptio:^^ 

We have entrusted this book to the Lord, to Mary his mother and to aU the angelical and 
human ranks, to all our forefathers, living and dead, and to this church, so that they should 
preserve it. May this word of the Lord preserve this church and this community from the 
burning of fire, from earthquake, from the assault of the enemy, from the stirring of wind. 


15 Cf. Fiaccadori 1993, 162-163; description and bibliography also in Lusini 2002, 161-163, with 
erroneous shelfmark «Ms. Martini etiop. n. 2 (= Zanutto n. 5)»; cf. also Bausi 2008a, 522, n. 49. 

16 Cf. Uhlig / Bausi 2007a, 739b: Bausi 2008a, 522. 

17 Cf. Bausi 1997, 34-39, manuscript no. 6; the quotation on p. 36 [tr.[, and p. 39 [text]. 



44 


Alessandro Bausi 


from lightning and thunder, and from every fraudulence of the enemy. As to this book, it 
is a source of pride, and [no similar one] is found anywhere else. Preserve it carefully and 
respectfully. 

The statement of the abbot makes it clear that the completion of this book was 
important for two reasons: its monumentality visibly represented the richness 
and power of the community as well as its devotion and loyalty to the religious 
faith. In this respect, the presence in the manuscript of the apocryphal and 
canonico-liturgical writings besides the Bible has its own specific importance. By 
virtue of having realised the book, the abbot feels entitled to ask for a particular 
intercession in favour of the monastery. In this case, the manuscript displays the 
patronage of the monastic community and attests to its ideological identity. 

The third case shows how dogmatic, monastic, and political controversies 
are sometimes reflected in centuries-old manuscripts. At the same monastery of 
Dabra Bizan, a wonderful 15*^-century Mashafa berhan (‘Book of the light’) has 
been preserved. The work is a compilation of doctrinal and historical materials 
written on the initiative of King Zar’a Ya‘qob and primarily intended to settle the 
violent monastic disputes in the course of which Dabra Bizan sided with the party 
opposed to the King.^® A note in the manuscript states that the codex was donated 
by the King to Petros, the community’s future abbot, on the occasion of his visit to 
the royal court in Sewa in the year 1457/1458 (fol. 271va):^® 

This book is the Mashafa berhan donated by our King Zar’a Ya'qob to Dabra Bizan when Our 
Father Petros descended from the land of Sewa, having taken this hook in the year of Mercy 
110. May he write in the Heavenly Jerusalem the name of Our Father Petros, shepherd of the 
flock. For ever. Amen. 

As we have it now, some specific portions of the historical narrative in the work (a 
sort of “official” history of the recent past) have however been censored, having 
been washed away and erased from the codex, no doubt on the initiative of some 
rebellious monks. 

The passion of the Ethiopian saints for books is a hagiographic common¬ 
place, and certainly reflects their holy devotion to the Holy Scriptures and to the 
books of Divinity.^” Some of them, however, seem to go slightly further, being 
animated by a special bibliophily: this is the case of some saints of the house of 


18 Cf. Getatchew Haile 2003; 2013; Derat 2005a. 

19 Cf. Bausi 1997, 25-34, manuscript no. 6, figs. 1-8; the note on p. 28 [tr.j, and p. 33. 

20 Cf. Bausi 1992, 41-46; for Dabra Hayq ’Estifanos - on which, cf. also Derat 2005b - cf. Bausi 
2006b, 538. 



Writing, Copying, Translating: Ethiopia as a Manuscript Culture 


45 


’Ewostatewos (ca. 1273-1352),^^ but also of Basalota Mika’el, a 14*-century saint^^ 
who, according to his Gadl (‘[Spiritual] Combat’), wandered among monasteries 
in search for books: 

First he arrived at Makana Dammo and remained there reading the books of the New and 
of the Old [Testament]; he also studied their interpretation with intellectual eagerness: 
so that the skin of his tongue fell off, like the sheath of a knife; but he did not abandon 
his reading because of this. Then he departed and arrived at the house of ’abba Mata‘: he 
received the benediction of the blessed Libanos and remained a few days being vigilant in 
the reading of books. Then he left and arrived at Makana Qefrya, and from there he left to 
Makana Q^a’at, from Makana Q™a’at to Makana Ba’altabehat, from Makana Ba’altabehat to 
Makana Maqale, from Makana Maqale to Makana Gefe by Gabra Nazrawi, his beloved. And 
wherever he arrived, he built a cell for himself and stayed up day and night reading the 
Scriptures: he supplicated the Lord in fasts and in prayer so that He might reveal the secret 
of their mystery. (Conti Rossini 1905,19.22-20.3 [text], 17.26-18.5 [tr.].) 


3 Some data and the status quaestionis 

3.1 Panorama 

Beginning from the second half of the 20* century, modern research has clearly 
distinguished various branches within the general field of manuscript studies, 
each with its own methodology and scope, based upon the fundamental distinc¬ 
tion between the text and the bearer of the text.^^ Codicology or “manuscript 
archaeology” studies hand-written books as artefacts with specific reference to 
their material constituents and techniques of production. Manuscript illumina¬ 
tions and drawings are the subject of art history. Palaeography deals with the 
peculiarities of writing and its general development and dating (which, histori¬ 
cally, was always the primary aim of palaeography), but also with the general 
“act of writing” in all its contexts and reflexes. Textual criticism or philology has 
refined its methods in the search for reliable criteria with which to establish the 
original readings of texts, taking advantage of recent developments in other fields 
attested, for example, by the emergence of such specific sub-disciplines as “codi- 


21 Cf. Fiaccadori 2005a; 2005b; Lusini 2004, 230-237; Tedros Abraha 2009,188-189. 

22 Cf. Samuel Wolde Yohannes / Nosnitsin 2003 (the reference on p. 494h to manuscript EMML 
no. 1843 is to be corrected into EMML no. 2134). 

23 The assertion that these areas of research should be subsumed in a single discipline of “man¬ 
uscript studies”, though not unheard-of, certainly has a radical edge today, and needs justifica¬ 
tion. 



46 


Alessandro Bausi 


cological stemmatics” or “material philology”.^'' These new fields of research 
are concerned with establishing the links between manuscripts and the texts 
they transmit. They also trace the history of each single manuscript, its material 
structure and/or the influence particular copies may have exerted within a single 
textual tradition. So far these recent disciplinary subdivisions have seldom been 
applied in Ethiopian manuscripts studies. 


3.2 Number of manuscripts 

Among basic issues that still need definitive assessment is the question of the 
total number of manuscripts, both inside and outside Ethiopia and Eritrea. The 
exact number of Ethiopic manuscripts in the Ethio-Eritrean region is not known. 
The estimated figure of ca. 200,000 (excluding scrolls) seems realistic and cannot 
be dramatically reduced if one considers the minimum number of manuscripts 
necessary for every church to be able to carry on its normal religious and litur¬ 
gical practice (the estimated number of parishes ranges from at least 13,000 to 
32,350). Large manuscript collections are often preserved in monastic libraries, 
especially in the still understudied Tegray churches and monasteries that formed 
the “cradle” of Christian civilization in Ethiopia.^^ 

The number of manuscripts abroad may run to several thousand. Most are 
catalogued. The four biggest collections in Europe are the Biblioteca Apostolica 
Vaticana (Citta del Vaticano), the Bibliotheque nationale de France (Paris), the 
British Library (London), and the Staatsbibliothek PreuBischer Kulturbesitz, Ori- 
entabteilung (Berlin). The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (also the first to have 
been catalogued) has well over one thousand (about 1,082) catalogued manu¬ 
scripts plus a number of still uncatalogued collections including many items 
each. The Bibliotheque nationale de France has over one thousand manuscripts 
and scrolls. The British Library (the first to have been catalogued according to 
modern standards in 1848) has at present at least 624 manuscripts. The Berlin 


24 Cf., e.g., Cavallo 1998; Gongalves 1998; Zufferey 1998; Pecere 1998; Del Corso 2007. For one of 
the many essays on the “digital philology” cf. Ciula / Stella 2007. Cf. also Bausi et al. 2014. 

25 Cf. for details Bausi 1996,14-23; 2004a, 8; 2008a, 510-515; 2009a; 2011b; Bausi / Uhlig 2007a; 
cf. also the important research project “Mazgaba Saalat”, edited by Michael Gervers and Ewa 
Balicka-Witakowska, with an immense database at <http://ethiopia.deeds.utoronto.ca/>; and 
now the even more important projects Ethio-SPaRe led by Denis Nosnitsin <http://wwwl.uni- 
hamburg.de/ethiostudies/ethiospare.pdf> and “The Ethiopian Manuscript Imaging Project, 
Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, MN”, led by Steve 
Delamarter <http://www.hmml.org/Vivarium/sgd.htm>. By the Ethio-SPaRe project, see now 
Nosnitsin 2013a; 2013b. 



Writing, Copying, Translating: Ethiopia as a Manuscript Culture 


47 


Library preserves 328 manuscripts and an important microfilm collection of 182 
items. As far as microfilms are concerned, the collection of the Ethiopian Manu¬ 
script Microfilm Library (Addis Ababa and Collegeville, Minnesota) with its 9,238 
manuscripts is the most important; moreover, the first 5,000 items have been 
catalogued in printed form, with other manuscripts being described in an online 
catalogue. 


3.3 Manuscript cataloguing 

To discuss methods and the state of the art in Ethiopic manuscript cataloguing 
would require a paper by itself.^'’ A full list of collections and catalogues, with 
minor omissions, has been compiled by Robert Beylot and Maxima Rodinson 
in 1995; an updated online version - not without some inconvenient elements, 
misunderstandings and errors - was prepared by a team of French researchers 
(Anai's Wion, Marie-Laure Derat, Claire Bosc-Tiesse) in 2006.^^ For information 
on a number of collections which can be considered of minor importance only 
from the point of view of the number of manuscripts, old repertories (such as the 
wonderful bibliography by Silvio Zanutto of 1935) are still useful.^® Catalogues 
usually reflect only a certain angle on manuscript studies. Some put more weight 
on philological aspects, such as description of the text, identification of its ante¬ 
cedents and parallels, and the manuscript’s place in its textual tradition, while 
others focus on material or “archaeological” aspects of the manuscripts. From 
this perspective, a rather recent catalogue of 23 manuscripts deposited in public 
and private collections of the United Kingdom should be used with circumspec¬ 
tion; though seemingly “progressive” and up to date in its detailed description 
of material aspects, it lacks similarly detailed description of the texts and has 
insufficient references to parallel versions and general repertories, vdth the con- 


26 I devoted one to the subject on the occasion of an international workshop in Montepulciano 
(Siena) on the manuscripts of the Mediterranean area (Bausi 2007a, with updated bibliography); 
add the descriptions of two manuscripts by Gianfrancesco Lusini, in Scialabba / Palma 2007, 
24-25 (manuscript no. 1, Lentini [Siracusa], Parrocchia di Sant’Alfio e Santa Maria La Cava, Bib- 
lioteca “Don Sebastiano Castro”, manuscript inv. 3373), and 72-73 (manuscript no. 26, Siracusa, 
Biblioteca Alagoniana, manuscript cod. XXlll); and the list of nine manuscripts in Bucarelli 2007, 
20-41 (manuscripts nos. 25-33). 

27 Cf. Beylot / Rodinson 1995; Wion / Derat / Bosc-Tiesse 2006a; 2006b, 2008; cf. Bausi 2007a, 
100-104. 

28 Cf. Simon 1931-1932; and esp. Zanutto 1932. 



48 


Alessandro Bausi 


sequence that the description does not constitute a good basis for philological 
research.^® 


3.4 Oldest manuscripts 

Although the introduction of Christianity in Aksum certainly implies early dif¬ 
fusion of manuscripts, at least for the purpose of religious services and liturgi¬ 
cal practice, none dating to that period are as yet known. The oldest preserved 
manuscripts which can confidently be dated go back to the early 13'*^ century, but 
manuscripts survive in considerable quantity only from the 17* century. Chris¬ 
tian tradition tends to attribute the scarcity of manuscripts predating the 17* 
century to the destruction of Christian heritage brought about in the first half 
of the 16* by the Islamic leader Ahmad b. Ibrahim al-Gazi. The wars with Islam 
must seriously have affected the survival of Christian manuscripts, although the 
extent of the damage cannot be determined with any certainty. The intentional 
destruction or substitution of texts, the custom of burying manuscripts together 
with their owners, and poor preservation conditions in monastic libraries, have 
also been adduced to explain the scarcity of ancient manuscripts. The conflict 
with the Jesuits in the 17* century and the full restoration of traditional cult in 
the Gondarine kingdom may also have occasioned a substantial revival of manu¬ 
script production.^” 

Three Four Gospels books from ’Enda Abba Garima (I, II and III) are consid¬ 
ered to be the oldest known Ethiopian manuscripts. Their dating, however, is still 
uncertain and a matter of discussion; it ranges, according to different scholars, 
from the 7* or even the 6* centuries up to the 14*, vdth the earliest dating (i.e. 
ante the 7* century) supported by the style of the illuminations (Canon tables) 
and radiocarbon dating.^^ While in several cases internal evidence is provided by 
a colophon or a subscriptio, in this, as well as in other cases, the manuscripts can 


29 Cf. Delamarter / Demeke Berhane 2007; cf. Bausi 2007a, 104-106. Definitely much better, the 
new catalogue by Getatchew Haile / Melaku Terete / Rundell / Daniel Alemu / Delamarter 2009 
and Delamarter / Melaku Terete 2009. 

30 Cf. Uhlig / Bausi 2007a, 739h-740h; Bausi 2008a, 518-520. The question whether more recent 
destructions - such as those caused by the Italian invasion and occupation in 1935-1941 - might 
also have played an important role has, curiously enough, remained totally unattended so far. 

31 Cf. Leroy 1960; 1968; Macomber 1979, 1-11; Davies 1987, 293-297; Zuurmond 1989, part II, 44- 
52; 2001; Heldman 1993,129-130, nos. 52-53; Mercier 2000,36-45, with the result, respectively, of 
430-650 CE and 330-540 CE for the two analysed parchment fragments; Bausi 2004b; Wechsler 
2005, ix-xi; Bausi 2005d; 2008a, 549-551; Capon 2008; Mercier 2009; Bausi 2011a. The recent 
conference “Ethiopia and the Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity: The Garima Gospels in the 



Writing, Copying, Translating: Ethiopia as a Manuscript Culture 


49 


unfortunately be dated only on the basis of palaeographic evidence, for which, 
however, only uncertain epigraphic parallels or art-historical features of the illus¬ 
trations are available. 


3.5 Codicology 

In the absence of a specialist monograph devoted to the codicology of Ethiopic 
manuscripts apart from a short, but useful booklet published by Sergew Hable 
Selassie (1981), Ethiopian codicology is still in its infancy.Two basic types of 
Ethiopic manuscripts are traditionally distinguished according to overall format, 
both of which are prepared on parchment according to fixed traditional pro¬ 
cedures; a) the scroll, usually not calligraphic and almost exclusively used for 
magical texts and for paintings but not (as in Jewish culture) for sacred texts or 
large works, and b) the codex, usually with wooden binding and leather cover. 
Palimpsests are rarely attested; they are obtained more often by washing off the 
ink than by erasing. Manuscripts are almost without exception on parchment. 
Paper manuscripts are rare and very recent (from the end of the 19**^ or the 20* 
century), apart from exceptions easily explained by the context of production. 
Collections of Ethiopic manuscripts copied by Ethiopian copyists for European 
scholars sometimes have many European paper manuscripts. Quires are normally 
composed of four bifolia in older manuscripts; fascicles of five bifolia seem to 
have prevailed since the 17*/18* centuries. “Gregory’s rule” (“flesh side on flesh 
side and hair side on hair side”) is consistently observed. Although dimensions 
and other metric data of the manuscripts (number of columns, size of the writing, 
width of the margins etc.) should be studied as components of the general mise 
en page, no statistical study is yet available for Ethiopic manuscripts, apart from 
very limited sample studies.^^ On this provisional basis, one can say that the 
dimensions of the manuscripts range from 10-12 cm to more than 40 to 50 cm 
in height. The most ancient manuscripts usually organize text in two columns; 
from the 16* century the three-column model tends to become frequent and later 
on prevails in large format manuscripts. As a rule, the Psalter is copied in one 


Context”, held in Oxford on 2-3 November 2013 seems to have provided further elements sup¬ 
porting the early date of the manuscripts 1 and ill. 

32 Cf. Sergew Hable Selassie 1981; Balicka-Witakowska 2007, 749a-752a; Bausi 2008a, 525-546. 
Cf. now the book, in Amharic, by Faqada Sellase Tafarra 2010; Nosnitsin 2012; and most of all 
Balicka-Witakowska / Bausi / Bosc-Tiesse / Nosnitsin 2014. 

33 Cf. Delamarter / Demeke Berhane 2007, ix-x, and especially Getatchew Haile / Melaku Terefe / 
Rundell / Daniel Alemu / Delamarter 2009, xxviii-xxx, where some useful statistics on the fas¬ 
cicular structure of the described manuscripts are given. 



50 


Alessandro Bausi 


single column. Guidelines are not drawn with ink but rather with a dry point by 
scoring the writing surface. Paragraph marks are very simple until the end of 
the 14* century when they become more elaborate. Geometrical ornaments and 
interlacing {harag) also developed from the 14* century; this kind of ornamenta¬ 
tion enjoyed a special revival in imperial scriptoria in the 20* century.^'' Black (or 
dark brown, typical of the earliest manuscripts) and red inks are very common; 
other colours are also used, especially in ornaments; one special case of “nega¬ 
tive” writing (black ink is erased to obtain “white” writing using the colour of 
the parchment) is attested in the colophon of an Octateuch, Bible House Library, 
Ethiop. 1, 284r.^^ One prevalent Ethiopian binding techniques seems to be of a 
specific type, technically termed “chain-sewing with two threads”. Manuscripts 
are usually provided with wooden covers, very often covered with ornamented 
leather according to traditional styles.^® 

A particular question concerning the material aspects of the Ethiopian man¬ 
uscript book is that of ink production. Although there has been no extensive 
laboratory analysis, present-day practice as observed by ethnographers, as well 
as philological and linguistic data (i.e. study of terminology) would attest that 
metallic ink was not common in Ethiopia, whereas it began to be used and tended 
to prevail both in Islamic and in Christian areas of the Mediterranean world in 
the course of the millennium CE. Aksumite Ethiopic mdya hemmat (‘ink’) 
literally means ‘water of soot’, and the earliest documentary text ever found, a 
feudal deed issued by King Lalibala and dating to 1205/1209, mentions the office 
of qdla hemmat, probably (if hemmat stands for hemmat) ‘voice (or; word) of the 
soot’, with reference to his scribes or secretaries who read and recorded texts.^^ 
If analyses and further research will confirm these preliminary results, Ethiopian 
manuscript production could have preserved late antique practice through to the 
present day.^® 


34 Cf. Balicka-Witakowska 2005. 

35 Cf. Cowley 1982, 71; at present, the manuscripts are preserved in the Cambridge University 
Library, cf. Beylot / Rodinson 2005, 46-47. 

36 Cf. Bozzacchi 1996; Szirmai 1999, 45-50; Bartelt / Hammerschmidt 1976; Proverbio / Fiacca- 
dori 2004, 666, n. 3; Balicka-Witakowska 2007; Bausi 2008a, 543-546. 

37 Cf. Conti Rossini 1901, 187.16, doc. no. 6; 2008a, 524; additional references in Bausi 2005c; 
2010e. 

38 Cf. a first attempt by Wion 2004,107, that confirms that Ethiopian black ink is carbon-based. 
On the occasion of the workshop “Digital Approaches to Manuscript Studies”, Hamburg, July 
23 ri- 24 'h 2010, in the frame of the European Science Foundation Research Networking Pro¬ 
gramme “Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies” (COMSt), Steve Delamarter presented the 
paper “X-Ray spectroscopy and a Fourier Transform-infrared analysis of Ethiopian Inks”, pro¬ 
viding laboratory evidence for the use of iron gall ink in an 18'*'-century Ethiopian manuscript. 



Writing, Copying, Translating: Ethiopia as a Manuscript Culture 


51 


3.6 Palaeography 

Apart from the study of writing in the strict sense,^® the modern concept of pal¬ 
aeography denotes both the analysis of the relationship within a single “data 
carrier” between texts of different status and, beside the material aspects of man¬ 
uscript-making, the social context presupposed by their production and use. We 
have some information about how copyists in the 20*-century imperial scriptoria 
(adequately furnished with libraries and places of traditional religious education) 
were trained. Their education included some knowledge of Ethiopic and calligra¬ 
phy. The special figures of the dabtards (learned laymen who are the best bearer 
of traditional religious knowledge) play an important role in manuscript produc¬ 
tion, although it has been observed that copying skills are not of pivotal impor¬ 
tance for them and other learned people of the church, writing being considered a 
task of lower prestige. This circumstance may also explain why autograph manu¬ 
scripts are extremely rare, only beginning to emerge alongside private and official 
letters and documents in the 19*^ century. 

The central role in the production of manuscripts was played by the monastic 
communities, and monasteries have also been - and in many cases still are - the 
main repositories. Manuscripts are rarely preserved in specially devised places 
(“libraries”): usually they are considered “precious objects”, and are inventoried 
and preserved in the same place as liturgical objects, paintings, clothes, textiles, 
crosses, and other paraphernalia. In some cases, manuscripts were entrusted 
to an ‘aqqdbe masdheft, ‘keeper of the books’, who is responsible for their care; 
in many cases written inventories have also been drawn up. Old lists of books 
(attested from the end of the 13* century) are normally used by scholars in order 
to establish the terminus ante quern of literary works and/or the relative degree of 
interest of monastic communities towards them.'"’ Inventories of items and books 
often appear as additiones (“additional notes”), on blank pages and/or in spaces 
not completely used up by the text, at the beginning or more usually at the end of 
the manuscripts. Unlike the colophon, these notes of various types (personal and 
historical records; sentences and judgements on controversies; lists of important 
people, saints, foreign words, and months; prayers and short hymns; calendric 
remarks; fatina ber‘, ‘pen trials”) do not directly refer to the main manuscript 
text. The practice of additiones may be considered very old, as we find such notes 
(almost contemporary with their production) even in the most ancient manu¬ 
scripts. The Bible (particularly the Four Gospels, Wangela warq, ‘Golden Gospel’) 
and manuscripts of the Gadl (‘Spiritual Combat’) of the founder of a monastic 


39 Cf. bibliography above. 

40 Cf. Bausi 1996, 20-21; 2008a, 546-547. 



52 


Alessandro Bausi 


community are frequently found to include documents of special interest, such 
as feudal deeds attesting benefits, historical records etc. In some cases, fascicles 
containing important feudal deeds are rebound together (e.g., in the “Golden 
Gospel” of Dabra Libanos of Semazana, in this case, together with a recent copy 
of the same deeds). 


3.7 Philology 

The analysis of the scribes’ attitude towards their texts and the understanding of 
the typology of textual transmission may have some important implications for 
editorial methodology today. All the great scholars in Ethiopian Studies have also 
been editors of texts, though (with few exceptions) not necessarily up-to-date 
with, or sensitive to, the questions of text-critical method involved in that work.'*^ 
In general, with some unavoidable simplifications, one can say that in the 
second half of the 19* century Romanists and Classical philologists adopted the 
methods developed by earlier New Testament editors, and brought to comple¬ 
tion the slow ongoing evolution towards a “progressive” critical reconstructive 
method. This method, often called the “Lachmannian” approach, comprises the 
following stages; a) a complete survey of all the direct and indirect witnesses to 
the text under examination (recensio); b) the identification of their genealogi¬ 
cal relationship established on the basis of conjunctive errors {Leitfehler); c) the 
reconstruction of an original or archetype text, using the majority reading of the 
manuscript families; d) a critical edition of what is believed to be a hypothetical 
reconstruction of the original text by the editor.'*^ As is well known, the Romanist 
Joseph Bedier (once a pupil of Gaston Paris) advanced a drastic criticism of the 
reconstructive method. According to him, an overwhelming majority of the pub- 


41 Bausi 1996; 1997; 1998a; Lusini 1999b; exhaustive bibliography can be found in Bausi / Dore / 
Taddia 2001, 155-165; Bausi 2004a, 19-21; 2006d, 102-105; 2007b, 81, n. 4; futher additions in 
Bausi 2010e. Cf. now also Nosnitsin 2007; Derat 2009, 2010; Bosc-Tiesse 2009, 2010; Wion 2009; 
Crummey 2011; Deresse Ayenachew 2011; Wion 2011a; 2011b; Wion / Bertrand 2011; Bosc-Tiesse / 
Derat 2011; Kropp 2011a; 2011b; Fiaccadori 2012; Wion 2012, passim-, Kropp 2012; 2013; Nosnitsin 
2013c; Fiaccadori 2014. 

42 Cf. details in Bausi 2006a; 2008b; 2010a; for the “normalization” of Ethiopian Studies, cf. 
Marrassini 1986,172-173; 1993, 4-6. Paolo Marrassini is responsible for marking a new philologi¬ 
cal trend in Ethiopian Studies in a number of pathbreaking contributions; Marrassini 1981; 1987; 
1992; 1996; 2000; 2003a; 2008a, 268-269, 272-273; 2008b; 2009; cf. also Lusini 2005; Shiferaw 
Bekele 2008; useful considerations are to be found also in Mantel-Niecko 1987. 

43 Any critical edition should of course distinguish clearly between manuscript tradition and criti¬ 
cally established text - what has been called, e.g., “Befund” and “Bearbeitung” by Flahn 2001,52. 



Writing, Copying, Translating: Ethiopia as a Manuscript Culture 


53 


lished stemmata codicum, or genealogical branches, of the manuscripts were two 
branched {silva portentosa! ‘a most unnatural branching’, as he put it). Bedier 
concluded that selection of preferred variants was a matter of personal judgment, 
and that the reduction of genealogical branches to binary oppositions was instru¬ 
mental in making editorial choice more subjective. Moreover, such genealogical 
reconstructions must, he concluded, have produced editions containing texts 
that had never existed. From 1913 on, Bedier proposed and formalized what he 
termed the “base manuscript” method.This involved publishing the text of a 
single selected manuscript, considered by the editor the best, and calling upon 
the remaining manuscripts only where they provide better readings of what from 
the editor’s point of view are problematic passages. 

In reaction to Bedier, the Classical philologists Giorgio Pasquali (following 
Paul Maas, who had remained largely unaffected by Bedier’s ideas), his pupil 
Sebastiano Timpanaro and the Romanist Gianfranco Contini reasserted the 
importance of philological reconstruction.''^ In fact, there is no alternative to the 
modern reconstructive (or so-called “Neo-Lachmannian”) method, unless “tran¬ 
scribing” is understood as editing.'"’ In Bedier’s view, one negative consequence 
of this method would be that every new edition would have a different text. To 
this criticism, G. Contini replied: 

The likely absence of stable readings is for Bedier a vice, the complaint against which, 
though fundamental, is not as a point salient enough: continuous dynamic improvement 
cannot be viewed as something that is not a positive quality. This progressive approxima¬ 
tion to the truth, a truth that is, so to speak, fractional in comparison with the presumed 
inherent truth of each single witness, a truth that involves a diminution of error, seems to 
represent a method worthy of the name of science.’^ 


44 Already known, but not usually extensively practiced, even before the development of the 
Lachmannian method - when the correction of an already edited texts (‘vulgata’) by eventually 
using additional manuscripts was the normal practice, cf. Timpanaro 2005 - under the name of 
“codex optimus ‘best manuscript’”, or codex vetustissimus ‘“most ancient manuscript’ method”. 

45 Cf. the invaluable “reader in the history of Philology” by Stussi 2006, esp. his “Introduction” 
(7-45) and selected writings on text-critical methodology by Gaston Paris, Joseph Bedier, Alberto 
Varvaro, Gianfranco Contini, Cesare Segre, Sebastiano Timpanaro, Alfredo Stussi, Neil Harris, 
Andrea Bozzi (47-232) with updated bibliography (235-240); cf. also the recent English transla¬ 
tion of Timpanaro 2005, to be read together with Fiesoli 2000. 

46 Cf. Milikowski 1999, 147-148; cf. also Reeve 2000, 197. 

47 “L’assenza eventuale di lezione stabile e un vizio per Bedier, della cui denuncia e questo un 
punto portante, non abbastanza rilevato; ma il continuo miglioramento dinamico non si vede 
come non sia una qualita positiva. Questa marcia di awicinamento alia verita, una verita per 
cosi dire frazionaria in opposizione alia verita presuntamente organica dei singoli testimoni, una 
verita come diminuzione di errore, sembra un procedimento degno della scienza”. Cf. Contini 



54 


Alessandro Bausi 


To my knowledge, there has been much less work on the history of Islamic manu¬ 
scripts philology.''® With regard to other Oriental traditions, I am not aware of 
detailed studies in the history of editorial technique. But there is, as far as I can 
see, much to be learned for example from Indie philology.''® 

As far as Ethiopic and other Christian Oriental texts are concerned, one 
might reasonably ask whether the method of the “base manuscript”®” (still 


1977, 963h; repr. in Contini 1986 [with a “Postilla 1985” on pp. 64-67], 3-63, esp. p. 33; repr. in 
Contini 2007,1, 3-62, esp. p. 30; again in Contini 2014, 39. 

48 Cf. some references in Marrassini 1987, 348-349; 2007; Bausi 2006a, 544; 2008b, 22-24. The 
recent, comprehensive volume by Pfeiffer / Kropp 2007, is useful to get an overall idea of the 
“state of the art”, even though many of the contributors do not really focus on the methodology 
of textual criticism, whereas those who do with a few exceptions (Peacock 2007; Berschin 2007; 
Kleinlogel 2007), seem to go little further than the paradigmatic and rather disappointing con¬ 
clusions expressed by Witkam 1988, who rightly criticized the mechanical application of stem- 
matic methodology to “Middle Eastern” literary traditions (Arabic, Persian, Turkish), yet totally 
ignored the fact that Classical and Romance philologists (cf. Pasquali 1954 and Contini 2007) 
developing the so-called “neo-Lachmannian” approach have provided a refined revision of me¬ 
chanical stemmatic methodology, and that the seemingly specific problems troubling editors of 
“Middle Eastern” texts which are listed by Witkam (“The ‘unique’ manuscript”, “The edition of 
texts preserved in numerous manuscripts”, etc.) are almost exactly the same (the only exception 
being “The edition of the Qur’an”) as those usually debated by Romance philologists; in a way, 
Endress’s 1982, 274 statement (“Auch die von Paul Maas: Textkritik ... erarbeiteten Grundsatze 
soUen bei der Edition arabischer Handschriften mehr Beachtung finden”), still makes sense: 
the reconstructive methodology should be considered insufficient only after attempts to apply 
it have been fully exhausted. For more nuanced position, see now Witkam 2013; and more in 
general, Bausi et al. 2014. 

49 Cf. Bharati 1988; Jha 1993; various contributions in Gartner / Krummacher 2000; Thaker 
2002; cf. also for further references the very interesting and exemplary article by Isaacson 2009. 

50 For a short survey and critical evaluation of recently edited Ethiopic texts, cf. Bausi 2006a, 
544-546; 2008b, 24-28; 2010f; Marrassini 2009. The survey could be easily expanded: e.g., one 
can note that Getatchew Haile 1982, 69, even if almost unwittingly, appreciably applies elimi- 
natio codicum descriptorum to justify the use of a unique base-manuscript (EMML no. 6275); 
on the contrary, Gori 2001, 472 (probably on the initiative of the series editor Lanfranco Ricci), 
deals with the unique manuscript witness to the text he is publishing as if it were the autograph, 
even though it is not (“II criterio fondamentale che ci ha costantemente guidato nella nostra 
edizione e quello della massima aderenza alia forma e al contenuto del manoscritto della Silloge. 
Di quest’ultimo, abbiamo dunque rispettato con la scrupolosa cura le forme grafiche peculiar!, 
anche quando errate ortograficamente, e le scelte morfologiche e sintattiche dell’autore, anche se 
sbagliate grammaticalmente” (“The fundamental principle which we have constantly followed 
in our edition is that of most adherence to form and contents of the manuscript of the Sylloge. Of 
the latter, we have therefore scrupulously respected the peculiar graphic forms, even where their 
orthography was manifestly wrong, and the morphological and syntactical choices of the author, 
although grammatically erroneous”); Gori 2003, 75, states that: “Data la relativa nitidezza della 
grafia in cui e stato scritto il testo dallo scriba Rada Asrass, e la non grande difficolta di lettura 



Writing, Copying, Translating: Ethiopia as a Manuscript Culture 


55 


largely accepted in these circles and seen by Alphonse Dain as an antiphilo- 
logical concept^^), continues to be practiced by force of habit, or, following the 
more recent critical rethinking of the reconstructive method, is justified by pur¬ 
ported special characteristics of the Ethiopic textual traditions themselves. But 
although the peculiarities of the Ethiopic textual traditions have yet to be ade¬ 
quately described, and better editions are needed to accomplish this task, we still 
must face the question which of the two critical methods should be employed for 
editing the texts. The “base manuscript” method is by “anti-reconstructionists” 
in several fields justified by intrinsic, culture-specific reasons.I will now try to 
discuss which method is best justified by the features specific to the Ethiopian 
textual tradition. 

Leaving aside the distinction - in my opinion, a fundamental one - between 
texts of Aksumite time on the one hand, and those of the medieval period which 
developed in a cultural environment which remained more or less homogeneous 
down to the present day on the other, a point worthy of attention is the degree of 
freedom the copyist allowed himself in copying the text. A high degree of freedom 
would lead to “fluidity”, “variation” or “instability” and make the restoration 
and the reconstruction of the text an impossible or simply a meaningless task. 

In fact, some editors typically oppose the reconstructive methodology with 
an empirical procedure based on “common sense”. Some also support their own 
sceptical attitude towards reconstructive philology by quoting “internal evi¬ 
dences”, like, e.g., the following exemplary passage from the Amharic andemta 
(Amharic commentary) on Mashafa Qedddse, ‘Book of the Mass’, with reference 
to the Ethiopic (Ge‘ez) text: 

mashafmestiryettanaqqaqdl engi andennd bezu, setennd wand, ruqenna qerb ayttanaqqaqem 
(“the book takes care of the deep sense [mestir]; on the contrary it does not take care of sin¬ 
gular and plural, masculine and feminine, far away and near”). (Garima 1925/1926, 12b. 


che essa presenta, non si e ritenuto necessario ritrascrivere con mezzi informatici il contenuto 
del manoscritto, cio che avrebbe provocato, per altro, oltre che un notevole dispendio di energie 
e di tempo, anche il rischio di introdurre degli errori involontari” (“In consideration of the rela¬ 
tive clearness of the handwriting of the scribe Rada Asrass, and of the fact that it is easily read¬ 
able, we have not considered necessary to transcribe by informatic devices the contents of the 
manuscript, which could have caused, among other things, besides the considerable waste of 
time and energy, the insertion of unintentional errors”). The latter statement is quite disconcert¬ 
ing: if the principle were consistently applied, no critical text could in fact ever be printed; for 
similar approaches, cf. detailed references in my contributions quoted above. 

51 Dain 1964,171, “un concept antiphilologique”. 

52 Cf. Reeve 2000,197; Bausi 2006a, 546-548. 

53 Quoted by Tedros Abraha 2007, 120, n. 9. Tedros Abraha is a very active present-day scholar 
and editor of Ethiopic texts, cf. Tedros Abraha 2001; 2004; 2007; 2009; cf. also Bausi 2010f. 



56 


Alessandro Bausi 


If this attitude was consistently present in older times, they say - a fact still to be 
verified, notwithstanding the statements of some authors who mainly refer to the 
observation of present day practice^'' - Ethiopic textual transmission must have 
been “fluid”; and any attempts at a critical reconstruction of textual traditions, at 
least in their minor details, would be futile. 

A closer examination of another quotation from the andemta commentary on 
the Pauline Epistles, Letter to the Romans 5,2,^^ however, reveals how ambiguous 
and complex the attitude of traditional Ethiopian scholars really is: 

mashaf mestir hitanaqqeq engi (“although the book takes care of the deep sense [mestir]”) 
zayebe aytanaqqeqemennd (“on the other hand, it does not take care of the expres¬ 
sion [zayebe]”): “enta bdtti qomna” belo (“after having said enta bdtti qomna [‘in which 
we have stood’]”) “we’etu mekhena” ala (“he said we’etu mekhena [‘that [[masc.[[ is our 
boast’]”): veccewem mammakivdccen ndt (“ and this [[fem.]] is [[fern.]] our boast”) “wawe’etu 
mekhena” bil (“if it says wawe’etu mekhena [“‘and that [[masc.[[ is our boast’]”), vekawem 
mammaldydccen naw (“ and this [masc.] is our boast”). (Mahari Terfe 1955/1956, 70.) 


The commentary might not appear perfectly clear, but what is to note here is that 
some phrases which are identical in contents, only differ in grammatical gender. 
Although this variance does not affect the sense at all, the variant phrases have 
been listed one after the other, collected in the andemta commentary text as 
attesting different utterances which have been considered worth recording (typi¬ 
cally in the style of the oral commentary, as usually happens in the andemta): 

after having said “in which we have stood”, he said “that [[masc.]] is our boast”, “and this 
[[fern.]] is [[fern.]] our boast”, if it says “and that [[masc.]] is our boast”, “and this [masc.] is 
our boast”. 


54 Cf. Heyer 1970,143: “To be able to keep in mind not only the sacred text but the Tergum of the 
Fathers is considered more honourable... If the sacred text, when it is being read aloud, deviates 
from the way it is in the Mamher’s memory, he will intervene and correct the Ge’ez text from his 
memory. What the Mamher knows by heart is of greater value than all that is written”. I myself 
have witnessed to the application of such a principle while visiting Eritrean monasteries. 

55 Cf. 6i’ oi) KOI Tpv npoaaytoyfiv EcxfiKopev [Tf[ niarei] Etc; Tiyv xapiv TOUTriv ev p EaTpKapEV, Koi 
KouxotpEGa En’ EAnihi Tpq do^pq tou 9eou; “Through him we have obtained access to this grace in 
which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God”; zaba’enti’ahu tamardhna 
westa zdtti saggdhu ’enta bdtti qomna wawe’etu mekhena wabdtti nesseffo sebhata ’Egzi’abeher, 
cf. Tedros Abraha 2001, 82. 







Writing, Copying, Translating: Ethiopia as a Manuscript Culture 


57 


The modern critical edition of the Letter to the Romans and of its Amharic andemtd 
commentary^® reproduces as its base text the same modern edition printed in 
1948 (Mahari Terfe 1955/1956). Yet the editor’s Italian translation reads^^: 

II libro sta ben attento al contenuto profondo, ma non al testo; dopo aver detto Ksulla quale 
stiamo» c’e infatti da aggiungere «e il nostro vanto». (Tedros Abraha 2001, 541.) 

(“The book is preoccupied with deep meaning, but not with the text; after having said «on 
which we stand», it must be added^* «it is our own boast»”). 

As it appears, the Italian translation omits the second part of the Amharic text - 
seemingly, a repetition - which is different only as far as the grammatical gender 
{yeccewem [fern.] versus yekawem [masc.]) is concerned. Indeed, the traditional 
Ethiopian scholar who first edited the printed andemtd text thought it neces¬ 
sary to give an account of the variation and was more sensitive to the gender 
distinction than the modern European scholar and translator. The practice dem¬ 
onstrates that traditional Ethiopian textual scholars can be, as it seems, attentive 
also to very minor, purely formal details, like variations of grammatical gender, 
which are also considered, recorded and included in the commentary text, even 
though they do not actually affect the sense. 

Another example useful when we consider the attitudes of traditional copy¬ 
ists to their texts can be drawn from the manuscript tradition of the Qalementos, 
the seven-book l?eve/ation of Peter to Clement, certainly translated from an Arabic 
Vorlage probably in the first half of the 14'*^ century.^® I have extensively collated 
twelve manuscript witnesses of the text and tried to sketch a stemma codicum (see 


56 Cf. Tedros Abraha 2001, 267 [text], and 541 [tr.j, nn. 13-14, also with reference to the passage 
by Heyer 1970,143. 

57 Cf. Tedros Abraha 2001, 541, with n. 14: “H testo su cui 11 commentario si basa ha omesso 
«e il nostro vanto/la nostra gIoria»; il commento vuole riparare. E da notare la singolarita del 
principio: «la disattenzione puo essere perdonata al testo ma non al commento». Per I’interprete 
etiope sarebbe blasfemo dire, «il testo e monco, corrotto» o cose simili, quindi si fa uso di cir- 
conlocuzioni onde trovare una via d’uscita dalle problematiche testuali” (“The text on which the 
commentary is based has omitted «it is our boast/our gIory»; the commentary intends to amend 
it. The peculiarity of the principle must be noted: «the slip can be excused in the text but not in 
the commentary®. The interpreter would consider it blasphemous to say «the text is mutilous, 
corrupt® or similarly, therefore circumlocutions are used in order to find a way out of textual 
problems”). 

58 In fact, the editor seems to have misunderstood the omographs ala, “he said”, for alia, “there 
is”, because he translates, ibid.: “c’e infatti da aggiungere”. 

59 Cf. Bausi 2006e; 2010b. 



58 


Alessandro Bausi 


Figure I).®” Manuscripts F and T belong in the main branch y (one of the three 
subarchetypes) and immediately descend from a common antecedent t, which 
also fits in well with their geographical provenance, as both were written in the 
tovm of Ankobar. Manuscript G, belonging in the main branch |3, is a 20**'-cen- 
tury copy in a paper exercise book,®^ made originally by an Ethiopian scholar for 
his personal use (when microfilmed it belonged in the private library of mamher 
Semrata Ab Qasala, Base, Wallo), but which bears marginal and supralinear 
annotations that can be identified as & readings. These annotations belong to a 
hand, different from the original copyist’s, which apparently corrected the text of 
G according to the readings of cp, the common antecedent of both F and G^. It is 
important that the extensive marginal and supralinear notes and corrections in 
& not only deal with large omissions or major textual variations, but also with 
minor ones (such as slighlty different, yet actually equivalent, syntactical con¬ 
structions, or synonymical variant readings and the like) that do not affect the 
fundamental meaning of the text. The scope of this paper will not allow me to 
expand on this in more detail. Instead, I will elaborate on how variant readings 
can reveal the real attitude of the copyists. 

A passage in the second book of the Qalementos states that “the Devil 
deceives Adam”: all the manuscripts have the same text {Diydbelos yaseh(h)eto 
la-’Addam), except for manuscripts F and & which have “the Devil deceives the 
world and Adam” {Diydbelos ydseh(h)eto la-‘dlam wa-la-’Adddm), “the world and” 
being in manuscript G a supralinear reading of CF. Both the majority text and 
the variant reading of manuscripts F and CF give a possible text, but the point 
is not that of ascertaining which is the primary or original reading (according 
to the general stemma, it is no doubt the shorter one). As in hundreds, if not 
thousands, of other cases, even in this one the second scribe of the manuscript 
G who vnrote the marginal and supralinear text CF verified and established his 
reading by comparison of the G text vdth an unknown manuscript source depen- 


60 Cf. Bausi 2006e, where a detailed description of the manuscript tradition is given. The 
stemma codicum may be summarized as follows: from archetype D three branches stem through 
three distinct subarchetypes: a, independent witnesses: mss. A and B; p, witness: ms. K and 
sub-subarchetype 6, from which mss. D and G stem in turn; and y, from which mss. S C E and 
sub-subarchetypes n and t directly stem: in turn, from n mss. P and V stem, and from t ms. T 
and a sub-sub-subarchetype (p; finally, ms. F is derived from (p. The reason why (p (a seemingly 
unnecessary intermediary between t and F) needs to be postulated will become clear in a while 
(s. below). Only manuscripts F (EMML no. 2147), G (EMML no. 4857) and T (Tubingen, Univer- 
sitatsbibliothek, M. aeth. 1 = M. a. IX1) will be considered here. 

61 This clearly appears from the microfilm of the manuscript, which I have examined, but it is 
not noted in the printed catalogue where the manuscripts is described, cf. Getatchew Haile 1993, 
338. 



Writing, Copying, Translating: Ethiopia as a Manuscript Culture 


59 


(I) 



dent upon the antecedent cp, from which F and CF derive.'’^ But it is important to 
note that the second hand CF, far from attempting at revising and correcting the 
text, only intended to collate it extensively. The copyist or scholar responsible for 
the readings was probably interested in recording and amassing variants. We 
have seen above that the traditional Ethiopian scholar who edited the printed 
andemtd text gave account in detail even of gender variations which did not affect 
the meaning: the same did here the copyist of CF with his annotations, according 
to the very same methodological principle which has given birth to the andemtd 
commentaries. 

This example shows that mediaeval Ethiopian scribes, much like their Euro¬ 
pean brethren, used multiple textual sources (so-called “contamination”). It is 
also instructive from the point of view of the history of the textual transmission 
in the proper philological sense. Ethiopian manuscript transmission is on the 
whole stable, and the textual tradition of each single text can be established on 
the basis of reconstructive principles. Scribes do not systematically change the 
received text by their own judgement, neither do they systematically correct its 
errors, although this may in some cases happen, of course.*’^ In the present case. 


62 The fact that even manuscript T does not have the small addition (as in other occurrences) 
demonstrates that the manuscript source is (p, not t: cf. above the description of the stemma 
codicum. 

63 According to Zuurmond 1989, part I, 39-40 (“Some 500 Ethiopic Gospel manuscripts are 
known today. Only rarely one of them is identical with another for more than a couple of vers¬ 
es. By far the largest number of variant readings obviously stems from internal corruption. It is 
hardly exaggerated to say that every Ethiopian scribe in his own way is an ‘Editor’. The average 
Ethiopian scribe must almost permanently have mixed the text he was copying with the text 
as he had it in mind, or even with the text of another manuscript to which he had immediate 





60 


Alessandro Bausi 


the copyist of simply collates the text and amasses variants, yet, he does not 
try to establish the correct text. Ethiopian copyists usually accepted and toler¬ 
ated even extremely corrupt texts,®'' wrhich is consistent writh the conception of 
an average copyist as not necessarily a man of learning.®^ This, I think, opens the 
wray not only for the application of mechanical text-critical reconstructive meth¬ 
odology, but also to a better understanding of horv wrritten culture was transmit¬ 
ted in traditional Ethiopia. 


4 A case study: The Aksumite Collection 

I have devoted myself for some years to a research project which aims to recover 
an older layer of the Ethiopic literature that dates back probably to the Aksumite 
age. The targeted texts are those multi-textual works that are likely to retain 
Aksumite texts translated from a Greek Vorlage, such as the so-called Sinodos (or 
Senodos),^^ a corpus canonum of canonico-liturgical character, and hagiographic 
collections. This research has led to editions of the Ethiopic versions of the Epistle 
70 by St. Cyprian of Carthage, the Acts ofPhileas (largely corresponding to the 
Greek text on P. Chester Beatty Library XV, one of the two papyrus witnesses 
known so far, the latter being P. Bodmer XX), the Teaching of the 318 Nicene 
Fathers on the right faith and the monastic life, the Canonical answers by Peter 
of Alexandria.®^ While this research was being conducted in 1999,1 was asked to 
prepare a description of a manuscript recently found which looked very old and 
contained canonical texts (Figure 2). The description was prepared at once, but 


access”). This statement seems exaggerated, and certainly not true for most of the non-Biblical 
textual traditions. 

64 It should be obviously better investigated, following the stimulating suggestion of the anony¬ 
mous editorial reviewer, “How does it compare with other traditions? Is it a function of the per¬ 
ceived authority of the text, or of the poor skills of the copyist?” But this cannot be the task of an 
overview paper like this, in the given conditions of philology of Ethiopic texts. Yet I fully agree 
with the general statements that “the value assigned to particular classes/genres of religious 
literature (Bible; commentary; other genres) might help to establish how social attitudes to/use 
of texts may have affected copyists’ behaviour”, and that “‘variation’ itself is a complex phenom¬ 
enon with different causes in different textual traditions depending on social factors and the 
ways in which texts are generated/regenerated and used”. 

65 Cf. Bausi 2008a, 526-530. 

66 Exactly so, not ‘Synodus’: Sinodos (or Senodos) is the transcription of the Ethiopic word; cf. 
Bausi 2010c. 

67 Cf. Bausi 1998b; 2002; 2004c; 2005e; 2006f; for the Acts of Phileas cf. now Schenke 2010a; 
2010b; Bausi 2010g; 2014. 



Writing, Copying, Translating: Ethiopia as a Manuscript Culture 


61 


the study of the texts was troubled by a series of problems which now seem to be 
finally resolved. An edition is being prepared, and the texts will soon be put at 
everyone’s disposal. Meanwhile, increasingly detailed descriptions of the con¬ 
tents, also covering some linguistic aspects, and partial editions have appeared.®® 


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Fig. 2: Manuscript of the/i/csu/Tr/te Collection, foil. 17v-18r, after restoration (foil. 16v-17r 
according to a preliminarily reconstructed numbering, cf. Bausi 2011c, 30-33). Traditio apos- 
tolica, 3:3-4; 7; 8:1-8; 13; 11; 10:1-3. Picture by Ethio-SPaRe project. 


In its present form, the manuscript (witnessing to what I have called the Aksumite 
Collection) contains thirty-six Ethiopic texts of various length (some are very 
short), including writings of the Church fathers (patristic literature), liturgical 
texts (rituals and prayers for church service), canonical texts (ecclesiastic rules 
and counciliar canons), and one historical text. Although different in content, 
it much resembles the so-called Sinodos, a very influential collection of norma¬ 
tive and liturgical texts translated from Arabic in the 14* century, still in use and 
much revered in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tawahedo Church. But whereas the 
bulk of the Ethiopic canonical and liturgical texts known at present, the Sinodos 
included, was believed to derive, through a complicated and patchy sequence of 
translations, from medieval and late Arabic textual recensions (made since the 
14* century), with only occasional earlier texts surviving (i.e. some liturgical texts 


68 Cf. all details in Bausi 2006b; 2006c; 2009b; 2011c; 2012; 2013. 





62 


Alessandro Bausi 


appear to be archaic and Greek-based, although they are mixed with the Arabic- 
based later ones), the new manuscript clearly reaches back to the oldest known 
layer of the early Christian (not only the Ethiopian) canon law and liturgy. Beside 
remarkable linguistic elements, the manuscript provides for the first time evi¬ 
dence that the development of a textual tradition may be traced in non-Biblical 
Ethiopic texts to such a degree of detail. 

It is difficult to imagine that the Aksumite Collection is an isolated case and 
it is reasonable to assume that the number of the preserved Aksumite texts is 
relatively low thanks to a process of replacement, in which the old translations 
from the Greek (marked by linguistic and cultural peculiarities) were supplanted 
by new translations from the Arabic. We cannot, however, establish whether the 
revision of the texts was accompanied by parallel and consistent updating of cod- 
icological features, or whether the older models kept exerting their influence.®® 

Some other characteristics of the manuscript are also worth mentioning. This 
is probably the oldest non-Biblical Ethiopic manuscript known so far. It shares 
some palaeographic and linguistic features with the other older Ethiopic manu¬ 
scripts (including the two Four Gospels manuscripts from Abba Garima).^” As to 
the content of the Aksumite Collection, I will mention two texts. 

The first is a new Ethiopic version of the so-called Traditio apostolica, Apos¬ 
tolic tradition’, definitely the most important Christian canonico-liturgical text, 
once attributed to Hippolytus of Rome. Its Greek original being lost, it has sur¬ 
vived only in a number of versions in Latin, Coptic, Arabic and Ethiopic, and in 
rearrangements in Greek, Syriac, Arabic, of which the most archaic and faithful 
is a Latin version preserved in the scriptio inferior in the palimpsest manuscript 


69 In this context, the case of the Mashafa tefut, a manuscript consisting of the Octateuch, Four 

Gospels and Sinodos, dating from the centuries, that was accurately reproduced (di¬ 

rectly from the original model or from an intermediary copy) by order of King lyasu I (1682-1706) 
is remarkable: cf. Bausi 2008, 539. 

70 Certain striking and so far never observed morphological affinities with verbal patterns of 
Tigrinya, the language at present spoken in the highlands of Tegray and Eritrea, spoil the mono¬ 
lithic structure of classical Ethiopic, where, except for a few examples in the causative prefix 
and pronoun morphology of epigraphic texts, no morphological variations had never been re¬ 
corded before. One could make a number of observations on the linguistic and palaeographic 
aspects of this new document, and elsewhere I have already dealt with some philological and 
linguistic peculiarities. A partial list of the latter includes non-application of the laryngeal rules, 
phonetic change from diyd- to zeyd-, e-ending (fifth order) forms in isolated prepositions and 
plural relative pronoun, peculiar pattern of imperfect of the passive t-stem (ye-t-qettal, instead 
of ye-t-qattal), a-prefixe (first order) in causative-of-the-reflexive ost-stem iyasta-, instead of 
ydsta-), cf. Bausi 2005a. Among a number of other linguistic features I can mention for example 
frequency of the nominative gerundive (as in Tigrinya) as opposed to accusative gerundive (as in 
Ethiopic and Amharic). 



Writing, Copying, Translating: Ethiopia as a Manuscript Culture 


63 


Verona, Biblioteca Capitolare, Codex LV (53). But the Ethiopic text of the Traditio 
apostolica as previously knovyn to us from other sources, is quite different from 
the text in the Aksumite Collection, the latter being clearly a new independent 
witness to the archetype. Although the two Ethiopic versions share few common 
passages and are thus in a complex relationship, numerous correspondences 
with the Latin testify to the new text’s belonging to the oldest recoverable textual 
phase of the Traditio apostolica and, at the same time, point to conjunctive errors 
(or innovations) of all the other vdtnesses. Moreover, as a large portion of the 
Latin text is lost, the new Ethiopic version represents a great step forward in our 
knowledge of the archetype of the Traditio apostolica; a problem that has chal¬ 
lenged philologists for more than a century since Edmund Hauler’s publication 
of the Latin text in 1900.^^ 

The second text is even more important. Probably prefixed to the collection 
as an introduction, it contains a History of the Alexandrian Episcopate, muti¬ 
lated in some parts.^^ The text is exceptional from two points of view; first, it is 
the first Ethiopic text of intentionally historical character dating from Aksumite 
period (with the exception of the epigraphical texts written by the initiative of the 
Aksumite kings); second, the historical fragments may be identified as belong¬ 
ing to a lost Greek History of the Alexandrian Episcopate (not to be confused with 
the later Copto-Arabic History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria), whose existence 
scholars from Tito Orlandi onward have traced in later texts, the most important 
of which are the Latin excerpts in Verona, Biblioteca Capitolare, Codex LX (58). 
The new Ethiopic manuscript provides by far the most important evidence for the 
reconstruction of the original text, of which, for long passages it is the unique 
witness.^^ The anonymous author of this History had access to materials drawn 
from the Alexandrian archives and some documents from the archive have been 
incorporated into the narrative. The narrative starts with the founding of the 
Alexandrian episcopal seat by Saint Mark and the early bishops, continuing with 
the events under the episcopate of Peter and his immediate successors down to 
the outbreak of the so-called “Melitian schism” and the story of Arius the priest. 


71 Cf. Bradshaw / Johnson / Phillips 2002; Bausi 2009b; 2010d; 2011c. 

72 The bishop of Alexandria was also head of the Egyptian Church from the 4**' century onward. 

73 At present, a critical edition, translation, and codicological and historical commentary both 
of the Ethiopic and Latin versions is underway, by myself for the Ethiopic text and by Alberto 
Camplani for the Latin witnesses; cf. also the papers by Alberto Camplani, “Methodological Con¬ 
siderations on the Sources about the Patriarchate of Alexandria in Late Antiquity”, and Alessan¬ 
dro Bausi, “New Ethiopic Documents for the History of Christian Egypt”, jointly presented at the 
“Ninth International Congress of Coptic Studies”, Cairo, Coptic Patriarchate, September 14-20, 
2008, now printed, Bausi / Camplani 2013. Cf. also Camplani 2003, 38-39; 2004, 154-162; 2006; 
2007; 2008; 2009. 



64 


Alessandro Bausi 


The details it provides, including lists of bishops and their respective dioceses 
recorded for the episcopates of Maximus (264-282), Theonas (282-300) and Peter 
(300-311), provide unparalleled and hitherto unknown documentation for the 
history of early Christian institutions in Egypt. Furthermore, quotations from this 
History which survived in a few later Ethiopic texts are marked as passages from 
the Synodicon of the Law. This is probably the name under which the collection 
had been known until the 15* century in the Ethiopian literary tradition. 

The existence of these and other ancient Latin versions of texts parallel 
to ancient Ethiopic versions in the manuscripts of the Biblioteca Capitolare of 
Verona is noteworthy: it seems that archaic and outdated texts have in this case 
been preserved in “peripheral” areas of the Christian world. 

The manuscript confirms the pre-eminence of religious, literary and cultural 
relationships between Egypt and Aksumite Ethiopia, and definitely proves the 
existence in an early period of translated canonical and liturgical texts. The lan¬ 
guage of the newly discovered texts is mainly a word for word rendering of the 
Greek original; it is also a valuable source for Aksumite Ethiopic. Remarkable 
features pointing to dialectal (probably Tigrinya) peculiarities may be due to the 
copyists or redactors - less likely to the translator(s) - and deserve careful schol¬ 
arly scrutiny. Some parts of the collection were reused and included in later Ethi¬ 
opic works which were being translated anew from Arabic, such as the Sinodos. 
The complex and unexpected “philological” processes attested in the Aksumite 
Collection textual tradition call for new methods of analysing and interpreting the 
Ethiopian literary tradition. The new evidence also strongly reasserts that neither 
the study of the Christian Orient nor that of Antiquity and Late Antiquity (Eastern 
and Western) is possible without taking into consideration the contribution of the 
Ethiopic sources. 


List of sigla and abbreviations 

EMML = Collegeville, Minnesota, Ethiopian manuscripts microfilmed for the Ethiopian 

Manuscript Microfilm Library, Addis Ababa and for the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library, 
St John’s Abbey and University. 

EAe = Siegbert Uhlig (ed.). Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, i: A-C; ii: D-Ha-, ill: He-N; (ed. in 
cooperation with Alessandro Bausi) iV: 0-X, Alessandro Bausi (ed. in cooperation with 
Siegbert Uhlig) V: Y-Z. Supplementa Addenda and Corrigenda Maps index, Wiesbaden: 
Harrassowitz Verlag, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2014. 


Writing, Copying, Translating: Ethiopia as a Manuscript Culture 


65 


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Florian Sobieroj 

Arabic Manuscripts on the Periphery: 
Northwest Africa, Yemen and China 

In the initial part of this paper I will introduce some basic general concepts related 
to Arabic manuscript culture in general, such as material aspects of manuscript 
production (writing supports, book bindings, etc.) and textual characteristics of 
the manuscripts (means of orientation, colophons, para- and micro-texts, etc.). 
I will then concentrate on some features which may be considered specific to 
Arabic manuscripts produced on the western, southern and eastern peripheries 
of the Islamic culture zone, i.e. in the Maghrib, Yemen and China. As the field of 
Sino-Arabic codicology is one of the least known, in this paper I have devoted 
more space to Arabic manuscripts in China than to the other two peripheral 
regions. The paper aims at drawing attention to the existence of a large spectrum 
of codicological types which developed on the margins of the Islamic world, in 
some cases under the influence of a host culture. 


1 Arabic manuscript culture 

The term ‘Arabic manuscript culture’ refers to manuscripts written in the Arabic 
language in Arabic script. This culture should be distinguished from those, mostly 
showing Islamic influence, which use a (modified) version of the Arabic script, 
for other languages. These include (to mention only a few examples) Persian or 
Turkish, or the Chinese xiaoerjing. 

Geographically, the culture of Arabic manuscripts extends from the Maghrib 
at the Western periphery of Dar al-isldm (the Islamic world, which here coincides, 
generally speaking, with the Arab world), to the borders of Iran and beyond, also 
including those non-Arab countries which were subject to the influence of Islam, 
and which have used Arabic as a sacred language. 

Chronologically, the beginnings of Arabic manuscript culture predate the 
advent of Islam. Pieces of northern Arabic writing were inscribed on stone, 
bones, wood, and other relatively long-lasting materials long before the Hijra, 
the flight of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina. After periods of time 
in which papyrus and parchment were in use as the main vnriting supports, from 
the middle of the 9* century paper became the preferred surface for manuscript 
writing. Arabic manuscript culture gradually declined with the introduction of 
printing technology, which, as far as Egypt is concerned, is connected with the 


80 


Florian Sobieroj 


expedition to the Nile valley launched by Napoleon at the end of the 18* century. 
But even after the import of this technological revolution, manuscripts continued 
to be produced in the Arab countries w?ell into the 20* century, even on the basis 
of printed text editions. 

The great number of extant manuscripts showrs that Arabic cultures made 
extensive use of writing as a medium for transmitting texts. However, the scribes 
did not trust this medium blindly. In order to overcome the textual corruption 
inescapable in the process of copying, they relied on oral transmission and 
checked the manuscripts according to dictation by an authorized teacher. Three 
peculiar features strike a modern reader of Arabic or Islamic manuscripts: 1) a 
tendency to provide certification of transmission of the text through chains of 
authorized transmitters {isndd) and hearing certificates; 2) elaborate commentar¬ 
ies written between the lines and in the margins; and 3) the presence of signifi¬ 
cant variation in the transmitted texts. 


1.1 Writing supports 

The writing surfaces employed in the Arab world for manufacturing manuscripts 
were papyrus, parchment and paper. 


1.1.1 Papyrus 

The earliest material used in the Arab world as a writing support was papyrus. The 
word ‘papyrus’ denotes a reed plant which grows in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Sicily, 
and Syria, and also the vnriting material made from it. In Arabic it is designated 
by words such as qirtds, wamq al-qasab or waraq al-bardl. Papyrus was used for 
various purposes such as letters, books, contracts, and tax registers. It was used 
until the 4*/10* century when competition from paper became overwhelming. 
Papyrus manufacture died out by the 5*/ll* century and only scattered remnants 
of manuscripts written on papyrus in Arabic script have survived. Although the 
papyrus roll, manufactured from glued sheets of papyrus, was used in the first 
centuries of the hijra, the codex became the dominant form for book-texts from 
the beginning of the Islamic era. Some manuscripts were also produced in the 
form of rotuli, i.e. rolls, where the text runs parallel to the axis (i.e. perpendicular 
to the length of the roll). As papyrus could be washed and reused, palimpsests 
have survived. Papyrus was also turned into cartonnage (hard cardboard made of 


Arabic Manuscripts on the Periphery: Northwest Africa, Yemen and China 


81 


scraps of papyrus combined with gesso) for boards used in manuscript bindings 
(cf. Deroche 2000, 35-36).^ 


1.1.2 Parchment 

Since parchment’s raw material is of animal origin, unlike papyrus, it could be 
produced anywhere. The technology of parchment making was relatively simple. 
The Arabic terms for parchment are raqq, riqq, and jild. Parchment is defined as 
skin of an animal prepared for writing, with preparation implying a process of 
unhairing, tanning and drying. Most commonly, sheepskins were used, and less 
often those of other animals such as goat, calf, donkey or gazelle. Parchment 
has flesh and hair sides, the former generally being whiter and softer than the 
latter. Manuscripts copied on parchment are almost exclusively codices as both 
surfaces, recto and verso, were equally available to the scribe. Although parch¬ 
ment was the preferred medium in manuscript production prior to the triumph of 
paper, only few specimens of non-fragmentary parchment codices have survived 
from the Islamic world. When paper became vddely available, parchment was 
still used in the central lands of the Islamic world from the 4^/10*^ century, and 
in the Muslim West manuscript copyists used it alongside paper until the 
century and even later. Like papyrus, parchment was reused (and called tirs) as 
the material was durable and the traces of an earlier use could be removed by 
scraping and washing (cf. Deroche 2000, 49).^ 


1.1.3 Paper 

The Arabic words for ‘paper’ are qirtds or waraq-, and the Persian term kaghadh is 
found in Arabic as kdghid or kdghad. The latter, a Soghdian loan word, is reminis¬ 
cent of the fact that the Soghdians, an Iranian ethnic group, propagated paper¬ 
making techniques through their contacts with Chinese Central Asia. 

In the century, the expansion of Islam brought the Arab conquerors into 
contact with the Chinese civilization of the Middle Kingdom. The repercussions 
of the military encounter between the Abbasids under their general Ziyad b. Salih 
and the Chinese during the battle at the river Talas in 751 in modern Kyrgyzstan^ 


1 For papyrus cf. Gacek 2009,193-194. 

2 For parchment cf. Gacek 2009,195-196. 

3 For the historical context of the battle, seen from a Chinese perspective, see Baike quanshu 
2007, 71. 



82 


Florian Sobieroj 


were far-reaching. The capture of Chinese papermakers caused scribes in the 
Islamic world to gradually adopt paper for manuscript production. Paper mills 
were set up in Samarqand by Chinese craftsmen. The introduction of paper to 
Baghdad followed soon, with Egypt turning to paper by the B'd/gth century (paper 
mills are attested in Fustat). Papers were classified by the names of cities where 
mills were set up: Baghdadi, Samarqandi, etc. 

Great care was given to the preparation and outward appearance of paper 
used for manuscripts. It was supposed to be translucent and capable of receiving 
writing without soaking up the ink: hence it was scrupulously smoothed. Paper 
may be divided into materials with or without water-marks. Starting from the 13* 
century, European paper became watermarked when a novel technique of sewing 
an emblem onto the wire screen was developed in Italy in 1264. By the 17* century, 
the majority of manuscripts in the Arab lands, including Turkey and the Maghrib, 
were copied on imported watermarked paper (Pedersen 1984, 60-67).'* 


1.2 Bookbinding 

Early Qur’anic codex manuscripts are believed to have been held together by two 
wooden boards. From this binding a bookcover in the form of a leather wrapper 
developed. It is possible however, that both types of binding coexisted (Gaeck 
2009, 25). The sheets became united with the wooden boards by means of a 
spine. The loose spine divided by raised transverse bands used in Europe was not 
employed (Pedersen 1984,104). 

In the early period of Islamic bookbinding, the wooden boards were covered 
with leather. Subsequently, they were replaced by pasteboard made by pasting 
together sheets of paper. The customary binding was not merely a piece of leather 
carrying the spine and both sides. The leather on the back cover of the book 
extends over the side to form a flap and is folded inward under the front page of 
the volume where it rests. The flap, which serves to protect the book, by virtue of 
its flexibility easily tears off and in many manuscript codices it is actually missing. 

In earlier manuscript codices, the surface of the leather is ruled with lines 
that form a large rectangle which fills the inner part of the board and is sur¬ 
rounded by one or more borders. Within these, often divided into smaller rect¬ 
angles, there may be geometric patterns of lines and dots. The leather is brown in 
various shades, but may partly be gilded or coloured. The pattern embellishing 


4 On paper see also Gacek 2009,186-193. 



Arabic Manuscripts on the Periphery: Northwest Africa, Yemen and China 


83 


it is produced by blind tooling which is done with a wheel and small individual 
stamps. 

In the late Timurid period (around 1500), a pattern emerges in which the 
bookcover is dominated by a central medallion which may be almond-shaped. 
The medallion is usually covered with tendrils and arabesques. It may also be 
an oval formed around a circle or be completely circular (Pedersen 1984, 106). 
During the Mongol period (the early Id'** century), in decorating the surface of 
the boards single stamps were supplemented by the introduction of metal stamp¬ 
ing plates. Ornamentation came to assume Persian designs. A new element intro¬ 
duced into book binding at that time was lacquered binding, a Chinese technique 
transplanted to Persia (Pedersen 1984,110).^ 


1.3 Tables of contents and other means of orientation 

The Arabic manuscript tradition developed certain devices that aim to help a 
reader to orient himself within the text(s). These first of all include tables of con¬ 
tents and chapter headings. 


1.3.1 Tables of contents 

Tables of contents (Arabic fahms, flhris, flhrist) may be found in Arabic manu¬ 
scripts in various places: on the flyleaves or, very seldom, on the inside of the 
front cover of the binding or at the end of the text. If written in these places, 
the contents are more likely to have been entered by the user than the copyist. 
The contents may also be prefaced to the text - in this case by the scribe - on 
pages immediately preceding its beginning. Finally, a list of chapters, i.e. kitdbs 
and tabs, may also be integrated in the body of the text following the basmalah 
{bi’sm Allah ‘in the name of God’), hamdalah (praise of God) and tasliya (eulogy 
of the Prophet) which are the conventional formulae that any Islamic text ideally 
starts with. In this case, the table of contents stems from the author.*’ The preface, 
whether it includes the tables of contents or not, is introduced by the formula 


5 On bookbinding see Gacek 2009, 22-33. 

6 An example for a manuscript in which the table of the contents is embedded in the preface 
(fol. 4r-v) is the undated codex BSB Cod. arab. 1551 (Qadi ‘yad d, K. al-Shifd’). Unless specified 
otherwise, the Arabic manuscripts referred to in this paper are owned by the Bayerische Staats- 
hibliothek Miinchen and carry the call number BSB Cod. arab. x. (the abbreviation BSB is hence¬ 
forth omitted). 



84 


Florian Sobieroj 


amma ba’d ‘and then’, and may also mention the author’s name, the title of the 
text, and the reason which led the author to compose it {sabab al-ta lif'the reason 
of composition’). All these Arabic expressions may be highlighted by the use of 
red colour. The rubrics attract the reader’s attention and help identify the author 
and the title of his text. The title and sometimes the author’s name may, alter¬ 
natively or additionally, be written in a head-piece {‘unwan), drawn above the 
basmalah at the very opening of the manuscript. 

The contents may be condensed on a single folio-page but may also extend 
over a number of pages. Often, the chapter headings are inscribed in rectangu¬ 
lar panels which may be arranged in two or more columns. Usually, the titles of 
kitab’s (‘books’) and bab’s (‘chapters’) given in the table of contents include ref¬ 
erence numbers which relate to the folio numbers or to the volume’s pagination, 
the latter likely to originate not from the scribe but from the hand of a user. In 
some cases, the contents prove to be very important, as they may provide biblio¬ 
graphical data not found in the text or texts referred to: e.g. variant titles.^ 


1.3.2 Chapter headings 

In Arabic manuscripts, chapter headings which mark the beginning of a bab (lit¬ 
erally: ‘gate’, i.e. chapter) are very common. These headings, particularly in texts 
on Islamic law (fiqh), may also be entitled kitdb ‘book’ (e.g. kitdb al-taham ‘book 
of ritual purity’ which regularly constitutes the first chapter in the legal tracts of 
the schools of Sunni Islamic law.) The kitdb’s or bdb’s may again be subdivided 
into passages (Arabic/as/), and a passage may be broken up in turn into units that 
carry headings, or are introduced by expressions such as qism (part), naw‘ (type), 
mabhath (subject of discussion), etc. 

In carefully executed manuscripts the headings may not only be found within 
the text but may also be vnritten on the margins. The margins themselves can also 
be filled with commentaries, corrections and collation notes, as well as vdth signs 
denoting text divisions.® If the headings are written with red ink within the text, 
they are usually also highlighted analogously in the margins. 


7 The beginning of the extraordinarily rich composite (multi-text) manuscript Cod. arab. 1135 
which contains more than 40 texts in Arabic, Turkish, and Persian, includes tables of contents 
which not only mention alternative titles but also those not reflected in the texts at all. 

8 Signs denoting the divisions of a text into which it is sectioned by length of the text irrespective 
of its chapter/verse division, i.e. in halves {nisf), quarters (rub) or thirtieth ijuz) parts, are found 
in Qur’an manuscripts (and prints). 



Arabic Manuscripts on the Periphery: Northwest Africa, Yemen and China 


85 


1.4 Colophons 

Ideally, the Arabic text in the manuscript ends with the copyist’s colophon, which 
is immediately recognizable by virtue of its shape (usually triangular). The colo¬ 
phon includes words of the scribe usually written in a few lines of decreasing 
length or - less frequently - in a few lines of equal length (e.g. Cod. arab. 1635) 
which follow the explicit of the author’s text. Since it also serves a decorative 
purpose, the colophon may be written in red ink (e.g. Cod. arab. 1626, a ShTi man¬ 
uscript), or its lines may be marked with red dots placed between the semantic (or 
prosodic) units. The latter is most common when the colophon - in continuation 
of the end lines of the author’s text - is written in rhymed prose. 

As a rule, the colophon includes the copyist’s name, the date of completion 
of the copy and sometimes the name of the place where the copying was done. 
The interface between the author’s text and the scribe’s copy may be introduced 
by words such as tamma naskhuhu oxfaragha min naskhihi ‘he has completed his 
copy’ or qala kdtibuhu ‘he who copied this said’, whilst the name of the scribe 
is often preceded by the formula ‘aid yad ‘[written] by the hand of (so-and-so)’. 

Occasionally, the scribe also gives some details concerning the manuscript 
from which he made his copy® and its relationship to the author’s autograph.^” In 
the interface between explicit and colophon, or in the context of a description of 
the relationship between the scribe’s exemplar and the author’s copy, the copyist 
may mention the author’s name and title of the work copied. Such information is 
of particular value in the case of a manuscript which is incomplete at the begin¬ 
ning where we would usually find these bibliographical details. 

More often however, the scribe gives some information about the process 
of his own work. He may mention that he copied the manuscript for his own 
purposes {li-nafsihi) and accordingly designate himself as its owner (Cod. arab. 
1643), or he may say that he stood in the service of someone who employed him to 
produce the copy.^^ The scribe may not only mention a date to indicate when he 


9 In Cod. arab. 1483, a manuscript dated 1301/1884 and containing 259 leaves, the scribe men¬ 
tions that the author needed 5 Vi months until he completed his work. 

10 E.g., in the Maghribi manuscript Cod. arab. 1641, the scribe mentions that he copied the text 
from a manuscript which had been copied from the autograph. The colophon of Cod. arab. 1375, 
produced in 1636, includes the claim that the manuscript was copied directly from the autograph 
of the author, al-Baqari (d. 1699). 

11 E.g. Cod. arab. 1612, dated 1581; Cod. arab. 1606, produced in Qars by a scribe in the service of 
a scholar from Van in Anatolia, dated 1751. 



Florian Sobieroj 


86 - 


completed the work of copying but may also state when he began it, thus allow¬ 
ing us to work out the duration of the time he spent on the project/^ 

The colophon often includes prayers in which God is asked to grant forgive¬ 
ness to the scribe, his parents and grandparents (Cod. arab. 1635, see Fig. 1) as 
well as to all Muslims, male and female, living and dead (Cod. arab. 1642,1650). 
Often, prayers are also extended to Muhammad, the Prophet, his family and com¬ 
panions (Cod. arab. 1635) in which context the scribe may express his need of the 
Prophet’s intercession as protection against hellfire (Cod. arab. 1680). It is not 
uncommon that the colophon carries over to a stanza of poetic verses, copied by 
the scribe and sometimes maybe even composed by him.^^ In these, constituting 
the most common theme, the reader’s forbearance is solicited as regards any mis¬ 
takes he may detect while studying the scribe’s copy (e.g. Cod. arab. 1652). The 








Fig. 1: The colophon often includes prayers in which God is asked to grant forgiveness to the 
scrihe, his parents and grandparents. Munchen, BSB Cod. arah. 1635. 


12 The colophon of Cod. arab. 1642, dated 1130/1717 and containing 163 leaves (cf. Sobieroj 2010, 
no. 308), betrays that the copyist spent three years until completing his work. 

13 Cf. Weisweiler 1935,101-120; also Schubert / Wiirsch 2001, 574-576. 



Arabic Manuscripts on the Periphery: Northwest Africa, Yemen and China 


87 


latter verses form part of a standard repertoire which shows an astonishingly 
wide variety of motifs. 

Giving the time at which the copy was completed, the scribe may mention the 
full date including week-day, day of the month, name of the month as well as the 
year after the Prophet’s hijra, or he may restrict himself to mentioning the year 
only. Sometimes the year is given without thousand or even without hundreds, 
shortened to three or two digits (the century has to be added by the informed 
reader), e.g. 195 = [1]195 (Cod. arab. 1124 [Sobieroj 2007, no. 67]), 81 = [10]81 (Cod. 
arab. 1135 [op. cit., no. 78], fol. 69v), 82=[10]82 (Cod. arab. 1135, fol. 120v).^'‘ To avoid 
any ambiguities which can easily arise due to the nature of Arabic script (especially 
when words are written without diacritical points) the scribe may mention the year 
of copying both in words and in numbers (e.g. Cod. arab. 1648). The name indicat¬ 
ing the place where the copy was completed may be restricted to a town or village, 
or the scribe may specify that he executed the copying in a particular mosque (Cod. 
arab. 1642), teaching institution {madmsa) or Sufi convent (Cod. arab. 1612), etc. 

Finally, the colophon may also include notes by the scribe on the collation 
procedure to which he subjected his copy. In the manuscript dated 1235/1820, Cod. 
arab. 1690, the text of a commentary on the famous Hizb al-Nawawi is followed 
by critical remarks of the scribe, IsmaTl b. Hajj Sulayman al-Divrighi al-Dimashqi, 
who complains about the difficulties he encountered in the collation of his copy 
due to philological incompetence^^ he attributed to the scribe of his exemplar.^*’ 


2 Maghrib), Yemen) and Arabic manuscripts of 
Chinese provenance 

Arabic manuscripts were also produced in the marginal areas of the Islamic world 
and, as far as the Chinese case is concerned, in a precarious interaction with 
the host culture. These peripheral manifestations of Arabic manuscript culture 
cannot be treated exhaustively here. The Maghribi, Yemeni and Chinese Arabic 
manuscript cultures are only adduced as examples. Other marginal and often 
marginalized manifestations, like those found for example in East Africa, are of 
equal importance. 


14 Shortened dates of this kind are more commonly found in owners’ marks rather than in colo¬ 
phons, e.g. [1]255, [12]69 (Cod. arab. 1820), [1]191 (Cod. arab. 1811). 

15 Lam yutqin al-kitaha bal halagha fl tahriflhd (‘not only did he not master writing but he even 
went to extremes in distorting if, fol. 40v). 

16 For colophons cf. Gacek 2009, 71-76. 



88 


Florian Sobieroj 


2.1 Maghribi manuscripts 

Manuscripts produced in the Muslim West, comprising North Africa and the part 
of the Iberian Peninsula which had come under the rule of Islam, show a number 
of peculiarities. Kairouan and Cordoba assumed a central role in the beginnings of 
Arabic manuscript culture in the Muslim West, the earliest extant Maghribi manu¬ 
scripts being dated second half of the 3^/9111 century (Deroche 2004, 68 ). 


2.1.1 Material aspects of the MaghribT manuscript books 

The specific characteristics of Maghribi manuscript books may first be seen in 
the composition of the codex. The gatherings or quires (Arabic: kurrasd) brought 
together to form the book in the Middle East typically consist of 10 sheets 
{quinion). In the Maghrib, on the other hand, greater diversity prevails. Quires 
of 8 ,10 or even 12 sheets were used by the artisans. Often, however, a quire of 6 
sheets {ternion) is found in the region, representing a formula which had enjoyed 
the favour of the Jewish scribes in Spain (Deroche 2004, 77). This opens a ques¬ 
tion which influences had exerted themselves upon peripheral Arabic manu¬ 
script culture in the Maghrib. 

Another specific trait of Maghribi manuscripts is continued use of parchment 
long after it had been replaced by paper in the eastern part of the Muslim world 
(Deroche 2004, 77). Even though paper production was well known in 
century Ifriqiyya (modern Tunisia) and paper was already widely used as the 
writing support, in the Muslim West unlike the East Qur’an manuscripts contin¬ 
ued to be copied on parchment until the 9**’/15**' century. 


2.1.2 Maghribi type of the Arabic script 

The Maghribi type of Arabic script which prevailed in books and documents of 
the West for ten centuries appears to the eye to be more angular than the eastern 
Naskhi styles. Its angularity may be explained by its derivation from a Kufi script, 
as some scholars have maintained.^^ 

Qne of the most salient features of the Maghribi type of script is the pointing 
of letters/d’ and qaf, which differs from that of the eastern scripts. The consonan¬ 
tal letter/d’ has a dot below, while the letter qdf has a dot above. Some further 


17 Octave Houdas, Essai surl'ecriture maghrehine (1886); quoted in Deroche 2004, 75. 



Arabic Manuscripts on the Periphery: Northwest Africa, Yemen and China 


89 


peculiarities of the Maghribi scripts may be summed up as follows; The letters sad 
and dad are usually conspicuously elongated and discernibly big. The Niin at the 
end of the word is often written half open, and likewise appears rather large. The 
letter dal, which sometimes resembles kdf, can be easily confused when written 
in round shape with the letter rd’ or final yd’. The descender of the letter Idm in 
final position is written as a rounded semi-circle. The medial sin is also conspicu¬ 
ous, with its ascender written with a high initial stroke. Quite common in the 
Maghribi type is the hamza (the sign representing a glottal stop) which in order to 
render madda (a sign above the alif used to represent the hamza + alif sequence, 
e.g. in words like dkhiran ‘finally’) is prefaced as a separate letter to initial alif 
(e.g. Cod. arab. 1641). Some of these graphic peculiarities are ancient and may 
be traced back to the and even 1^77* centuries. Deroche 2004, 80f. men¬ 

tions as example letter td ’/zd ’ with its oblique upstroke or final alif which extends 
below the base-line.^® 


2.1.3 Colours and devices for structuring text 

Another important characteristic of the Maghribi manuscripts is the generous use 
of coloured inks which strikes the eye as soon as the codex is opened. The gamut 
of colours used was far wider than in the East. Here red, blue and yellow alternate 
with black (Deroche 2004, 78). The main text is usually written with a brownish 
black ink; but (analogously with the eastern Arabic manuscripts) if the base or 
source text is supposed to be commented on in the body of the manuscript, this 
base text is highlighted in red (e.g. Cod. arab. 1689). 

Red ink is also employed for the verse markers; the “drops” (or dots) which 
structure the rhymed prose of the introduction, e.g. in Cod. arab. 1689, a manu¬ 
script of recent production.^® Red is used in this manuscript for chapter headings 
(e.g. a heading carrying the title tatimma ‘continuation’) and to indicate literary 
sources quoted by the author (e.g. wa-qdl al-Suyuti, ‘Al-Suyuti said’). Quite incon¬ 
sistently, greenish yellow was used to introduce the same quotation only a few 
pages later, where red continues to be used for headings and to indicate liter¬ 
ary sources. Qn the whole, however, red predominates over yellow or any other 
colour. 


18 For a meticulous analysis of the forms found in Maghribi writing cf. Boogert 1989, 30-43; also 
Gacek 2009,147-149. 

19 The manuscript contains a commentary by a Sudanese author (13*''/19‘*' c.) on a versification 
of a work by al-Juwayni (d. 478/1085) on Shafi'i legal philosophy. 



90 


Florian Sobieroj 


In the undated Maghribi manuscript Cod. arab. 2635/9, (Fig. 2) the text is 
structured by the use of highlighted words and single letters which are written 
disproportionately large in red or bold black. 






,}..,!. it it t f ’.u^^ft** •’I'l' * 


,\U) Vi- Wii2/>4^« .iuJ>Jv*»V f** 





Fig- 2: The text in this undated Maghrihi manuscript is structured hy the use of emphasized 
words and single letters which are written disproportionately large. Munchen, BSB Cod. arah. 
2635/9. 


The loose leaves of this rather unpretentious manuscript are densely filled with 
25 lines per page^” and contain a copy of a text entitled al-Nasiha al-kdfiya li-man 
khassahu Ilahu bil- ‘dfiya (‘Sufficient counsel for one who has been favoured by God 
with intactness’), on the subject of mystical instruction by the well-known Moroc¬ 
can Sufi author of Shadhili affiliation, Ahmad al-Zarruq al-Fasi (d. 899/1493). In 
some places in this manuscript, black and red intermingle in a single expression, 
with a red line drawn above the black letters of a word. Consistently highlighted 


20 By contrast to the layout of manuscripts of the eastern Arab countries which, as a rule, are 
written in an uneven number of lines per page, Maghribi manuscripts are often written in lines 
of even numbers (e.g. BSB Cod. arab. 1689,1698,2635/3:22 lines; 2679:16 lines, 2634/11:18 lines). 




Arabic Manuscripts on the Periphery: Northwest Africa, Yemen and China 


91 


are the expressions wa-qdl (he said), na'am (yes), wa-minhd (‘to this [subject] 
belongs’), written alternately in red and black, or a single letter waw whose head 
is picked out in black. The tapered line of final mim in the word na‘am (‘yes’) has 
been drawn deep down into the sublinear area. Apart from these emphases, there 
are no other apparent devices for structuring the text in this manuscript, such as 
blank spaces or indentations. But a number of words are highlighted, again quite 
inconsistently, by overlining in a different ink, to indicate the beginning of a new 
semantic unit (fol. lOv) or to mark individual expressions in an enumeration of 
terms (fol. 6r). 

In Maghribi manuscripts, at the beginning of a text (fol. Iv, i.e. at the place 
where in the eastern Arabic manuscripts an ‘unwan, or the title of the work may 
be found) headings written in very large letters may be inscribed which are made 
up of the basmala and a eulogy of the Prophet, followed often by a motto, e.g., 
in Cod. arab. 1698, “its beginning is blessed and its ending fortunate” {mubdrak 
al-ibtidd’ maymun al-intihd’); see Fig. 3. 


• »,'xjy/ CaiuU/ 




nJUiT' 






Fig- 3: The beginning of the text is made up of the basmala and a eulogy of the Prophet, fol¬ 
lowed by a motto written in very large letters: mubarakal-ibtida' maymun al-intiha‘ (“its begin¬ 
ning is blessed and its endingfortunate”). Munchen, BSB Cod. arab. 1698. 


92 


Florian Sobieroj 


2.1.4 Further fate of the MaghribT type of script 

After flourishing for nearly 10 centuries, the Maghribi script is now confined to 
decoration on title pages. And yet it may be added, slightly modifying Deroche’s 
assessment, that still in the first half of the 20* century manuscripts continued to 
be written in the Maghribi style.^^ According to Ibn Khaldun (d. 808/1406; quoted 
in Deroche, 2004, 90-91), Maghribi scripts had already started to decline with 
the demise of the Almohad dynasty in the 6*/12* - 7*/13* centuries. Models 
imported from the Eastern Mediterranean littoral became increasingly appreci¬ 
ated and imitated. They were taken up by copyists, illuminators and binders from 
the Maghrib; and Ottoman prototypes came to replace local ones (op. cit. 95). 
However, the Maghribi script survived in sub-Saharan Africa, where it became 
known under the name of Sudani, an off-shoot which possibly came from Tunisia/ 
Qayrawan.^^ 


2.2 Yemeni manuscripts 

In a group of about 150 manuscripts of the south Arabian origin^^ acquired by the 
Austrian (originally Bohemian) Jewish traveller-scholar Eduard Glaser (d. 1908) 
and sold in 1902 to the then Royal Library in Munich (“Konigliche Hof- und Sta- 
atsbibliothek zu Miinchen”), a number of characteristic features may be deter¬ 
mined as follows; 

The majority of the books treat issues of law according to the school of the 
Zaydiyya, a moderate ShTi sect almost exclusively rooted in the Yemen, while 
legal tracts belonging to the madhhab’s of Sunni Islam, on the other hand, 
are very few. Texts on poetry and dogma may also be found in relatively high 
numbers in this group of manuscripts whereas the natural sciences are clearly 
underrepresented. Owners’ marks entered in the manuscripts^'* show that quite a 
number of codices formerly belonged to the members of the families of the ruling 
Zaydi Imams. 


21 E.g. Gotha, Forschungsbibliothek, Ms. orient. A 807i (dated 1358/1939), Ms. orient. A 1856a 
(1329/1911); BSB Cod. arab. 1702/1, containing a text by the celebrated Sufi Ahmad al-‘Alawi 
(d. 1934). 

22 E.g. Cod. arab. 1110 = Sobieroj 2007, no. 53; on Sudani script see also Gacek 2009, 257-258. 

23 This group of manuscripts has been described in detail by the present author in Sobieroj 2007 
(cf. also the introduction to the catalogue, pp. XXI-XXXIX). 

24 E.g. Cod. arab. 1193,1209,1306. 



Arabic Manuscripts on the Periphery: Northwest Africa, Yemen and China 


93 


The layout of the legal texts tends to be rather austere and only exception¬ 
ally is the beginning of a manuscript of this group decorated with an ornamental 
head-piece {‘unwdn), the like of which, in Ottoman manuscripts, is often found 
drawn above the incipit of the text. Instead, the Zaydi manuscript text is often pre¬ 
ceded by a vignette (fol. Ir or 2r) in which the full title of the work and the author’s 
name, accompanied by numerous honorific appellations, are inscribed. 

The examined manuscripts tend to be somewhat inconsistent as to the 
number of lines on each page (e.g. Cod. arab. 1199,1214). Also the format of the 
text frame appears to be rather flexible (e.g. Cod. arab. 1199, 1214) and catch¬ 
words in the inner corner at the bottom of the verso-pages are often missing (e.g. 
Cod. arab. 1191). Many manuscripts lack folio numbers which, however, may be 
replaced by a numbering of quires (e.g. Cod. arab. 1190,1191). In some cases, the 
number of the quire is spelled out in words, written in red, and accompanied by 
a number placed above (e.g. Cod. arab. 1228). In a book on pharmacology (Cod. 
arab. 1242,1244), instead of folio or quire numbers written in the upper corner of 
the recto pages, the initial letters of the discussed medicine have been entered. 

In the manuscripts on Zaydi law the outline {msm) of the Arabic main text is 
often only sparsely provided with diacritical dots. However, the defective point¬ 
ing here may be contrasted with the commentaries on the Qur’an^^ or in collec¬ 
tions of poetry and diwan’s (Cod. arab. 1230,1235,1237) which are not only pro¬ 
vided with full pointing but they may also be partly or fully vocalized. However, 
coloured marking of headings and selected expressions tend to be carefully 
executed throughout the juridical texts. Alternatively, a thicker qalam (reed pen) 
may have been used for highlighting these expressions in black, which are often 
traced additionally by a red line (Fig. 4).^® 

The colophons which conclude the manuscripts of this group often contain 
very detailed information about the production of the text and the copy, and in 
some instances fill almost a full page (e.g. Cod. arab. 1295). It is not rare that an 
expression like la'allahu (‘perhaps’. Cod. arab. 1310) or azunnuhu (‘I think’. Cod. 
arab. 1295) may be found written in the colophon, which indicates that the scribe 
harbours doubts concerning the accuracy of a chronological date he mentions. 


25 E.g. Zamakhshari’s tafsir (Cod. arab. 1206) or that of Baihaqi (Cod. arab. 1209). 

26 Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Ms. Glas. 25: beginning of the 2’^^juz’ (fol. 8v-9r) of the law-book en¬ 
titled al-Bahr al-Zakhkhdr by Ahmad b. Yahya b. al-Murtada (d. 840/1437, Brockelmann 1937-49, 
2,238-240). 



94 


Florian Sobieroj 







«,S. 'Vo 

^i 8^*5 s^ t^'W^u»>J.'>^'*Kj-j:>y'*A^ufU^i'^j 




•Ai' ■ ■■1^^*' '*^ . . . ..• . . _A-. 





Fig- 4: A thicker qalam (reed pen) is used for highiighting headings and seiected expressions 
in hiack. Beginning of the second juz‘ of the iaw-hook entitied al-Bahr al-Zakhkhar hy Ahmad h. 
Yahya h. ai-Murtada (d. 840/1437). Beriin, Staatsbihiiothek, Ms. Gias. 25, foi. 8v-9r. 


is Wdg^s ■•' 


IV , Ev»V. 

»!.■'..■• 'iv>. U^a>Su4££is\S^w)(«-iile-\<i-'--'Wi*ii'r^*''' 



The technical expression qassasa (‘narration’) is not commonly found in the colo¬ 
phons of Ottoman manuscripts or in codices produced in the central Arab lands. 
This term refers to collation by means of recitation. In the Yemeni manuscript 
Cod. arab. 1284 the term qassasa refers to a teaching session, and it is stated there 
that the scribe read out and corrected the copy he had made only five days before 
in the presence of his teacher. 

Some of the Yemeni manuscripts include ijaza’s, i.e. highly individualized 
certificates authorizing the recipient to teach or “transmit” {riwdya) a specific 
text. The oldest ijdza in this group (which however lacks the term itself) is found 
in a manuscript copy (Cod. arab. 1183) of a legal tract entitled Kitab al-ahkdm com¬ 
posed by the founder of the Zaydi Imamate al-Hadi ila 1-haqq Yahya b. al-Husayn 


27 Another Yemeni manuscript containing a qassasa note is Cod. arab. 1324 dated 899/1493. Ac¬ 
cording to the colophon the text was revised by the scribe on the basis of the muswadda (the 
author’s draft) about half a century after the completion of the copy. 








Arabic Manuscripts on the Periphery: Northwest Africa, Yemen and China 


95 


(d. 298/910). This rudimentary ijaza note is integrated into the beginning of the 
law-book and contains the request of a student addressed to his teacher, namely 
a son of the author, to authorize him to teach the text which he had previously 
studied under him. A much more developed ijaza found in another manuscript 
(Cod. arab. 1306) of the group acquired by Eduard Glaser had been issued by the 
Zaydi scholar al-Qadi Muhammad b. Ahmad b. Yahya, for the Zaydi Imam, i.e. 
the ruler, al-Hadi ila 1-haqq Tzz al-Din al-Hasan (d. 1494-5). The certificate was 
entered into the manuscript book one year after the completion of the copy of the 
text (889/1485) to which it is related. The ijaza is written without diacritical dots 
overall in a rather careless manner which remarkably contrasts with the elegant 
hand of the rhymed prose of the composition. The Qadi praises the Imam in the 
ijaza through which he authorizes the Imam to transmit the work on Zaydi law. He 
apologizes to the Imam for issuing the certificate to someone whose knowledge, 
he says, far exceeds his own. However, tradition sanctions the practice that the 
author dispenses authorization to his students. 

The title page of the Yemeni manuscripts quite often carries a magical 
formula believed to act as a protective device against the book worm [al-sus] 
whose activity could result in the destruction of the book-binding and paper, and 
consequently, in a loss of legibility. A typical formula, which starts vdth the invo¬ 
cation yd kabikaj ‘Oh, kabikaj!’ (to a toxic plant thus called) is found in Cod. arab. 
1196,1199,1307. Less often copied in Yemeni manuscripts are charms which were 
expected to prevent theft. A formula entitled ‘azimat al-sdriq ‘spell against the 
thief’ is written on the title page of the dated manuscript Cod. arab. 1261 which 
was produced in the 16‘^ century. Whilst these or similar apotropaic formulae can 
also be found in manuscripts which originated in other parts of the Arab world, 
another micro-text seems to be more unique to the Yemeni book-making tradi¬ 
tion. On one of the first or last leaves of the manuscript, or on the inside cover of 
the binding, the Islamic formula of the profession of God’s unity is found, often 
accompanied by supplications that explain the purpose of these inscriptions. God 
and his angels are asked to safeguard this confession as a treasure that He can 
implant in (the heart of) the scribe on the Day of Judgment. A copyist of a Zaydi 
legal text informs the reader, in the margins of fol. 266r of Cod. arab. 1323, that 
he came across a prayer of the Yemeni author al-Hadawi al-Wazir (d. 914/1508) 
in which he asked God that he may make the composition of this work a trea¬ 
sure (dhakhird) credited to its author on the Last Day. Poems praising the text or 
its author are another type of micro-text often found in the beginning pages of 
Yemeni manuscripts. On the title page of BSB Cod. arab. 1321, eight Kamil verses 
are inscribed which praise the commentary of al-Sahuli al-San‘ani (d. 1060/1650) 
on the celebrated Zaydi legal work entitled al-Azhdr fi fiqh al-a’imma al-athdr 
Fig. 5). The Hiddyat al-aj1(dr of the aforementioned al-Hadawi is extolled in Cod. 


96 


Florian Sobieroj 


arab. 1313. Both the beginning and final leaves of these three manuscripts are 
filled MFith verses lauding the Qur’an commentary al-Kashshdf of the congenial 
Mu'tazili author Mahmud b. ‘Umar al-Zamakhshari (d. 538/1144; no. 144, 146, 
418 = Cod. arab. 1202,1204,1206). 




l' 










. 




life/ 

-V 


L 


\r V 


Fig- 5: The celebrated Zaydi [egaiworkat-Azhar fT fiqh al-a‘imma al-athar by Ahmad b. Yahya b. 
al-Murtada. The colophon is explicit and dated (Rajab 956/July-August 1549). Collation notes 
and explanatory glosses are in the margins, the latter also between the lines. Berlin, Staatsbib- 
liothek, Ms. or. Quart. 110, fol. 113v-14r. 


2.3 Arabic manuscripts in China 

Although large areas of China, in the western and north-western provinces in 
particular, on the whole still identify with the Islamic heritage of their ances¬ 
tors, there is little reliable information about the location of Arabic and other 
Islamic manuscripts in that country. An important contribution to the filling of 
this lacuna is the chapter by Mozafar Bakhtyar in Geoffrey Roper’s World Survey 






Arabic Manuscripts on the Periphery: Northwest Africa, Yemen and China 


97 


of Islamic Manuscripts, which lists a number of Islamic manuscript collections 
seen by the Iranian scholar during a visit to China in or shortly before 1993.^® 


2.3.1 Main categories of manuscripts 

The manuscripts existing in China may be divided, follovdng a classification of 
Bakhtyar, into four main categories; 

1. Manuscripts on Qur’an commentary {tafsir), Islamic law, dogma, and prayer. 

As far as tafsir works are concerned, the commentaries of al-Baydawi 
(d. 716/1316; Brockelmann 1937-49, 1,530-4), the Tafsir falalayn of Jalal al-Din 
al-Mahalli (d. 864/1459; Brockelmann 1937-49, 2,138) and his student Jalal al-Din 
al-Suyuti (d. 911/1505, Brockelmann 1937-49, 2,180-204) as well as of al-Sawi^® 
are widely read by Chinese Muslims in the Northwest. The Persian Tafsir-i 
Husayni, i.e. the Tafsir-i mawahib by Husayn b. ‘Ali al-Wa‘iz-i Kashifi (d. 910/1505; 
Tilrk Diyanet 1988ff., 19,16-18), is highly popular, particularly in Sufi circles. As 
most Muslims in the Chinese Northwest follow the Hanafi madhhab (school of 
law), the manuals of this school are studied, and in particular the “Wiqdya" 
{Wiqayat al-riwdya fi masa’il al-Hidayd), with its commentaries by al-Mahbubi 
(d. 680/1281; Brockelmann 1937-49, 1,468-69); see Fig. 6. Ma Tong, who is the 
author of a number of authoritative works on Sufism in Xibei, mentions Shelaiha 
weigaye (fiStll (= Sharh-i Wiqdya) by Maihamude (Mahmud (7))^“ as a 

commentary which forms part of the curriculum in Chinese Madrasa education 
(cf. Ma Tong 1985, 29, no. 6). As to dogma, the creeds of Najm al-Din ‘Umar b. M. 
al-Maturidi al-Nasafi (d. 537/1142; Brockelmann 1937-49,1,548-550), al-'Aqdrid al- 
Nasafryya (Agayilin Yisilan IFirM; cf. Ma Tong 1985, 29, no. 5) are still 

studied to this day. 


28 Bakhtyar 1994, 63-116. Besides using Bakhtyar as source for this section of my paper, I will 
also draw on my own data from two trips through northwest (Xibei) China undertaken in 2008 
and 2009, as well as pieces of information disclosed to me by some Chinese scholars based in 
Lanzhou, Yinchuan and Shanghai, and by some Sufis as well as other Muslims to whom 1 have 
spoken in various places in Xibei. 

29 Probably identical with Ahmad b. M. al-Sawi al-Misri al-Shadhili al-Khalwati (d. 1241/1825; 
Brockelmann 1937-49, 2,465 S 2,743), author of a commentary (Hashiya) on the Tafsir al-Jalalayn 
(cf. Kahhala 1957-61, 2,111-112). 

30 Brockelmann does not mention in his Geschichte any “Mahmud” as author of a commentary. 
The death date 1346, mentioned by Ma Tong, however, is the year in which the author’s grandson 
and commentator, ‘Ubaydallah b. Mas'ud, died (Brockelmann 1937-49,1,468,1a). 



98 


Florian Sobieroj 


^i> '\>^ ->■ ( j^'. K "/\^ o J.\^ i^'. v;/'.t 








(UU^v^V-j^ s>i,x a'aj. oj*' ''^L» 

i>v ^>“11' J^U •-''juJiiiV o s\s i> --NSt 


itir 


o*y 




■-<V 


^\l^^^ 


;j-ii\ o* ^ VJj 

.UiUi; J'JJb ’ 


j\ yid^ O'^}' 


.r 


Fig- 6: A manuscript of the ‘Umdatal-ri'aya by al-Lakhnawi. The beginning of the text with 
basmala, hamdala and author’s name. Fully pointed khattsM by a trained hand, with some 
vocalizations. The expression ammd ba’d and personal names are highlighted in bold script. 
Interlinear and marginal glosses are in Chinese characters (e.g., the author’s name is explained 
as related to an “Indian town”). Sanying, Ningxia, private collection. 


Arabic Manuscripts on the Periphery: Northwest Africa, Yemen and China 


99 


2. Classical works on Arabic and Persian grammar. 

Ma Tong (1985) 29, no. 3 mentions a work authored by Nur al-Din Jami 
(d. 898/1492; Brockelmann 1937-49, 2,266-267) entitled Shelaha Kafeiye 

{=Sharh Kdfiya) among the Madrasa teaching manuals (to be identified 
with Jami's commentary on Arabic grammar entitled al-Fawa’id al-diya’iyya on 
al-Muqaddima al-kdfiya; Brockelmann 1937-49, 2,267,11). 

3. Texts of the followers of the mystical orders of the Naqshbandiyya-Jahriyya,^^ 
Qadiriyya^^ and Kubrawiyya.^^ 

The Jahriyya is a sect which grew out of the Naqshbandiyya order in China 
in the 18‘^ century, and has its strongholds in Ningxia province, in the loop of 
the Yellow River. Their sacred verse texts are called Mukhammas, and are based 
on the Qasidat al-Burda of the Egyptian mystical poet Sharaf al-Din al-Busiri 
(d. 694/1296; Brockelmann 1937-49,1,308-14)^'* as well as a second Arabic text in 
praise of Muhammad called Mada’ih?^ As for the Qadiriyya order, the Sirr al-asrar 
of the order’s founder, ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (d. 561/1167; Brockelmann 1937-49, 
1,436), is studied by the murids of the Guo gongbei in Linxia i|nS, formerly 
called Hezhou iRT'/H or “Little Mecca”.^® The Qadiri Sufis likewise meditate on a 
famous collection of mystical letters, the Maktuhat-i rabbdnP^ by Ahmad Sirhindi 
(d. 1034 /1624; TiirkDiyanet 1988ff., 22,194-199 [art. “imam-i rabbam”]), the great 
Indian Sufi master of the Naqshbandiyya. The most important text studied within 
the Kubrawiyya order is the celebrated Mirsad al-‘ibdd of Najm al-Din Razi Daya 


31 Rendered in Chinese as Zheherenye SilfS® or 

32 The Gadelinye order has its centre in the area of Linxia in southern Gansu province. 

The town is graced by three Qadiri convents, situated next to each other, called Da gongbei, Taizi 
Gongbei and Guo gongbei. The latter was built in the second decade of the 18'** century around 
the tomb of a saint remembered as Chen Yiming PS—=S Muhyi al-Din M. Husayn (d. 1718; cf. 
Linxia Guo gongbei 1997,1, 14), allegedly a Prophet’s descendant in the ZP'** generation. For the 
Qadiriyya in northwest China see Ma Tong 2000; idem 1980,228-270; for the Da Gongbei Ma Tong 
1980, 230-244. 

33 Rendered in Chinese as Kuburenye cf. Ma Tong 1980, 80, 333; Algar 1982, introd. 

34 Qn this work, entitled in Chinese Gaisuide buerde mfStt see Ma Tong 1985, 32, no. 2. 

35 Cf. Ma Tong 1985, 34, no. 4. Facsimile reproductions of Sini-style manuscripts of both prophe- 
tological works are sold, for example, in the bookshop adjacent to the Great mosque (Nanguan 
Qingzhensi) of Yinchuan. Whereas the rear of a long book-shelf was partly dominated (Sept. 
2009) by books on Chinese Sufism and traditional Tafsir works, in the front, books were dis¬ 
played bearing a distinctly Wahhabi imprint. 

36 For Linxia see the Chinese Islamic encyclopaedia entitled Zhongguo yisilan baike quanshu = 
Baike quanshu (2007), 215f. 

37 The epistles are also being read, inan Arabic version (to'nh) printed in Mecca, by the students 
of the Jahriyya convent called Flonglefu gongbei lUJftdt near Wuzhong in Ningxia province. 



100 


Florian Sobieroj 


(d. 7*/13* century; TurkDiyanet 1988ff., 32,496-497 [art. “Necmeddm-i Daye”])^® 
which also was one of the main literary sources of the illustrious Sufi author Liu 
Zhi a Hui scholar of Nanjing (d. 1158/1745; Baike quanshu 2007,321-322).^® 

4. Some well-known texts of Persian literature,'"’ extant in many copies in China. 


2.3.2 Manuscript losses 

The majority of Islamic manuscript collections in China are privately owned. 
Most manuscripts are not kept in state libraries or museums but rather in the 
villages, private homes, mosques or Sufi convents. In reaction to their historical 
experience, owners are secretive about the number of their manuscripts. Even 
nowadays Muslims hide their books fearing the government may learn of their 
existence and seize them.'*^ As the manuscripts continue to be moved from one 
place to another it is difficult to judge as to the reliability of numbers given for any 
collections said to exist at a particular place. 

It is still not knovm as to what extent Arabic and other Islamic manuscripts 
have been destroyed or removed from China. However, three main factors''^ which 
had a disastrous effect vdth regard to this loss of cultural heritage may be deter¬ 
mined; 


38 A manuscript, enriched with Chinese glosses, of this systematization of Sufism has been 
brought from Xibei to France by Henri d’Ollone (d. 1945) during the famous expedition he under¬ 
took in 1906-1909 (cf. Algar 1982, 20). The text of the Mirsdd has been translated from Persian 
into English by Hamid Algar (1982); for the Mirsdd see also Ma Tong 1985, 30, no. 11, p. 33, no. 3. 

39 The Mirsdd, translated into Chinese already in the 17**' century (Leslie 1982,89, no. 7), is men¬ 
tioned in the bibliographical lists of Arabic and Persian titles prefaced by Liu Zhi to two of his 
writings. 

40 Bakhtyar mentions manuscripts he saw of Sa'di's Gulistdn (Ma Tong 1985, 30, no. 9) and 
Bustdn, of the Diwdn of Hafiz, of Rumi's Mathnawi and some works by Jami. Ma Tong 1985, 
28-31, lists 13 Arabic and Persian titles still studied in the Madrasas by the Hailifan 
(=khalifas=students). 

41 An Ahong of a Jahriyya convent reported to me that in order to save a prayer book from the 
Red guards he kept hiding the manuscript by taking it back and forth between the gongbei and 
his home. 

42 Bakhtyar 1994,106 mentions a collection of Islamic manuscripts located in Shanghai Munici¬ 
pal Library which, when he wrote, was preparing to move from Nanjing Road to a new site on 
Huaihai Rd. However, during my visit to the gigantic modern library in 20091 was told by various 
employees that no Islamic manuscripts whatsoever are or were kept in the library. I was referred 
to the affiliated Bibliotheca Major ofZi-ka-wei (#^;C Xujiahui) established in 1874 by Jesuit mis¬ 
sionaries where again Islamic manuscripts were said to be non-existent. 

43 Cf. Bakhtyar 1994, 68-69. 



Arabic Manuscripts on the Periphery: Northwest Africa, Yemen and China 


101 


1. In the era of colonialism, European orientalists and archaeologists were 
eager to collect Islamic manuscripts (Bakhtyar 1994, 69). Rarely however 
were manuscripts, seized unlawfully, returned to the country of their origin 
(which may have saved them from destruction during the revolution).'''' 

2. Internal wars between local governors as well as sectarian disputes. There 
also needs to be added, for the first half of the 20* century, the Sino-Japanese 
War (1937-1945) as well as the Civil War between the Communists and the 
Guomindang of Chiang Kai-Shek (1946-1949).''^ 

3. The “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” between 1966 and 1976 during 
which thousands of Arabic and other Islamic manuscripts were destroyed. 
Buildings of the Muslim communities were demolished as the people were 
made to believe by the communist propaganda that their traditional culture 
embodied reactionary attitudes.'*'’ Eyewitnesses report that book burnings 
took place regularly at that time.''^ Historical inscriptions in mosques and in 
temples''® were smashed and calligraphic carvings obliterated. That at least a 
catalogue of the destroyed books survived seems to have been the exception 
rather than the rule.''® It may be added that the destruction of Islamic librar¬ 
ies was already anticipated by the “Religious Reform Movement” in 1958 
(Dillon 1999,164). 


44 It may be mentioned that the governor-general of Turkestan, Konstantin P. von Kaufmann, 
between the years 1868-76 procured for the Russian Czar 300 manuscripts written in the Arabic 
script which he then passed on to the Imperial Public Library of St. Peterburg. In 1962 all the 
manuscripts are said to have been returned to Uzbekistan (cf. Zaitsev & Datsiuk 2005,13). 

45 Oral information obtained from Prof. Wang lianping. 

46 The Chinese text on a stone plate attached to the Yinhe mosque of the Gedimu f&jfi g (qadlm) 
sect (on the Gedimu “orthodoxy” see Dillon 1999, 95f.; Ma Tong 1980, 88) in Guyuan, south¬ 
ern Ningxia, erected in 1874, recalls that the site was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution 
and thereafter rebuilt. An example of a Sufi convent demolished during wenhua geming is the 
Honglefu gongbei. The convent, erected in 1778, is said by its inhabitants to have been wholly 
destroyed during the “years of turmoil” and turned into farmland whilst their books were annihi¬ 
lated. However, nowadays Islamic life is flourishing again in the rebuilt convent and traditional 
education has been revived. 

47 Cf. Dillon 1999, 164. The Ahong of Sanying mosque situated on the trunk road between Yin- 
chuan and Guyuan showed me in 2009 his Arabic books among which there were a few guji 
Arabic manuscripts on grammar and Tafsir. Some of the books showed traces of burning, and the 
cleric indicated that they had been salvaged from the fires during the violent campaigns. 

48 One Lama of the Gelugpa monastery of Labrang in Xiahe TM county, southern Gansu, con¬ 
fided to me in 2009 that the majority of their library-books were destroyed during the revolution. 

49 The titles of 90 Arabic and Persian manuscripts of Yongshou mosque Sanlihe HSM of Bei¬ 
jing survived in a handlist compiled by Bouvat (1908). Both the mosque library and the 500 year- 
old building were destroyed (Bakhtyar 1994,68). 



102 


Florian Sobieroj 


2.3.3 Some characteristics of Sino-Arabic manuscripts 
2.3.3.1 Bindings and paper 

Very many manuscripts in China are in poor condition, due to the extreme climate 
(Bakhtyar 1994, 75) and as a result of the above mentioned historical upheavals. 
Often the leaves are kept in a loose-leaf binding, and as a result they have come 
into disorder. The end-pages are often missing. The bindings of Arabic and other 
Islamic manuscripts made in China tend to be primitive, mostly lacking the flap 
and any kind of ornamentation. The binding made of sheep’s leather covering a 
manuscript of sewn quires seen in Honglefu convent seems to be rather excep¬ 
tional. 

Many Islamic manuscripts in China were written on folded paper. Traditional 
Chinese paper employed for manuscript copying was extremely thin. Therefore, 
the ink penetrated the paper affecting the back side. As a result the verso page 
could not be used for writing. To solve this problem folded paper (folded only 
once) was used for copying texts.^” 


2.3.3.2 The Language of Chinese Muslims 

Owing to the fact that Islam was spread from central Asia into northwest China 
mainly through Persian-speaking missionaries, the Persian element is strongly 
present in Chinese Arabic literacy. Persian became the dominant language of 
the region conquered by the Mongols, and it remained in use well into the Ming 
dynasty (1368-1644) which followed the Yuan era (1260-1368). Textual explana¬ 
tions and interpretations were often written in Persian, and many manuscripts 
are finished with the Persian formula tamam shud. The language of the Muslims 
in China has sometimes been called Huihui hua 0 0i5, the term used by some 
writers for both Arabic and Persian (Dillon 1999,156). Arabic as the language of 
the Qur’an, irrespective of the relative dominance of Persian, has of course been 
preserved by Chinese Muslims and numerous heads of community, Yimamu 
S, especially those who belong to the growing number of Chinese Muslims who 
are fortunate to have performed the pilgrimage to Mecca and can boast mastery 
of Arabic. 


50 Cf. Bakhtyar 1994, 72. Another example is the al-Harirl manuscript of the Famen menhuan 
(see below). 



Arabic Manuscripts on the Periphery: Northwest Africa, Yemen and China 


103 


2.3.3.3 Use of the xiaoerjing script 

Some Islamic manuscripts have been vyritten in the xiaoer jing d'JL S (or xiao 
jing 'i' S ‘small classic’ or xiaoer jin d'JL^ ‘little brocade’) script. The term 
designates a system of transliteration of Chinese into Arabic script enriched by 
some letters borrovyed from the Persian alphabet. The script was derived from 
primary level text-books in which this method was used as a way of introducing 
children {xiaoer ‘children’) to the Arabic script prior to the study of the Arabic 
language itself (cf. Dillon 1999,155). Many Chinese Muslims preferred transliterat¬ 
ing Chinese into the Arabic script to writing characters, as they felt that learning 
haru:i ‘(Chinese) characters’ was incompatible with their religion. The oldest evi¬ 
dence of xiaoer jing is mentioned by Bakhtyar (1994,77) who saw a sample copied 
in 713/1313 found in the Tibb-i ahl-i Khita of Rashid al-Din Fadlallah Hamadani 
(fl. 14**’ century, Brockelmann 1937-49, 2,256), the wazir of the Mongol emperor 
Oljaytu. It includes a transliterated passage from a versified Chinese medicinal 
text.^^ 


2.3.4 Sino-Arabic script 

2.3.4.1 Two manuscripts of the Jahriyya’^ order in praise of Muhammad 

Another distinctive style of the Arabic script used in the majority of Islamic manu¬ 
scripts of Chinese origin is generally called Sini, and seems strongly influenced 
by various types of Persian script. It resembles the cursive Thuluth popular in 
Persia and Central Asia during the Mongol Ilkhan period. The Sini style of Arabic 
script shows the influence of Chinese characters, its letters being “rounded and 
flowing [...] with slender anklets and fat feet’’.^^ 


51 Cf. the illustration in Bakhtyar 1994,77; the second and third lines are Chinese, the words writ¬ 
ten beneath the line are Persian translations. For xiaoer jing, also called Pinyin wenzi SPa 

see a comprehensive article in the internet encyclopaedia Wildpedia. 

52 The lahriyya, also called the “Chanting Aloud Sect” {gaosongpai itiiiM) - with regard to the 
remembrance of God, is a division, founded by Ma Mingxin, of the Naqshbandiyya Sufi order and 
maybe counted as the largest of the Islamic menhuan in China (cf. Dillon 1999,121-125). 

53 Cf. China Heritage 2006. Bakhtyar 1994, 72f., however, relates the script to Nasta‘Iiq-i 
Turkistdni, a style used in “Chinese Turkistan”. Sheila S. Blair mentions some characteristics 
of a Chinese script which she considers to be a variant of Muhaqqaq (Blair 2006, 373-374). She 
includes an illustration from a thirty-volume Qur’an manuscript dated Muharram 804/October 
1401, Khanbaliq (= modern Beijing), figure 9.3 (Blair 2006, 374). 



104 


Florian Sobieroj 


A facsimile reproduction^'' of a manuscript copy of the Arabic text in praise of 
God and his Prophet, entitled Mada’ih (Maidayiha may serve as a first 

example of the Sino-Arabic script (Fig. 7). 



Fig- 7: A facsimile reproduction of a manuscript copy of the Arabic text in praise of God and his 
Prophet, entitled Mada'ih. 


The script is compressed, fully vocalized and equipped vnth diacritical dots. The 
letters m \ waw and nun in the final position are wrritten vdth long tapered ends. 

The manuscript was copied according to the Chinese preface by Li Fa-en 
Imam of Milexian in Yunnan province^^ and concludes with the 

Persian formula tamdm shud. 

The text, with incipit al-hamdu lilldhi lladhi sharrafa l-andma bi-sdhibi 
l-maqdmi l-ald wa-kammala s-su’uda bi-akmmi maulud (“praise be to God who 
has honoured mankind through the lord of the highest station, i.e. Muhammad, 
and perfected the blest through the most noble of those [ever] born”), composed 
in rhymed prose is followed by a prayer, written by the same hand, in which the 
name of “Sidi Baha’ al-Din an-Naqshbandiyya” is mentioned. Therefore, the Sufi 


54 The facsimile was published in the Chongde ## mosque of Kunming in Ramadan 2009. 

55 Personal communication with a student of the Honglefu convent. 



Arabic Manuscripts on the Periphery: Northwest Africa, Yemen and China 


105 


order for whose students the text was printed (as stated in the preface) should be 
identified as Jahriyya. The members are obliged to recite the Madd’ih as part of 
their daily spiritual practice. 

The murids of the Jahriyya believe that the order’s founder Ma Mingxin, who 
carries the honorific name {zunhao ©•§■) Wiqayatallah, al-Shahid (d. 1781; Baike 
quanshu 2007, 345), brought the Madd’ih to China on his return from Yemen.^® 
He had received ijdza from a Yemeni shaykh called Muhammad b. Zayn (? Zaini 
ifeU) as well as the behest to spread the teachings of the Naqshbandiyya in the 
Middle Kingdom (Ma Tong 1985, 86). Wiqayatallah ended his life being executed 
in Lanzhou by the Qing government. In the wake of Ma’s execution his followers 
called themselves shuhedayi (Arabic: shuhadd’, ‘martyrs’) and contin¬ 

ued to nurture in themselves the spirit of martyrdom (Ma Tong 1985, 85) which, 
in the first place, was directed against the oppressive rule of the Manchu Qing 
dynasty. 

The Mukhammas (Muhanmaisi ttPSUr) on the Qasidat al-Burda of al-Busiri 
is a second text in praise of Muhammad held in the highest esteem among the 
Sufis of the Jahriyya order.^^ As is the case with the previous poem, the Mukham¬ 
mas is also recited as part of their daily wazifa (cf. the Chinese postscript of the 
facsimile, Ma Liesun 1992,166). 

Still in the 1960s, manuscript copies of the Mukhammas were made by the 
Jahri-Sufis of Ningxia. A copy of the text, extant in the Honglefu Gongbei (Fig. 8), 
has been executed by the head of the convent, an elderly Shaykh called Yan(?) 
Liangbi Muhammad Ishaq, who originated from Xiji in southern 

Ningxia. He is said to have studied the art of Arabic calligraphy in the province 
and completed, in 1969, the manuscript which I was shown in September 2009. 
The copy includes a colophon vdth the name of the scribe {bizhe ^#), in both 
Chinese and Arabic.^® 


56 Ma Tong 1985, 34 describes a text entitled Madd’ih (Mandanyehe probably identi¬ 

cal with the above, authored by one Xiehe Aihamode Yiben Guximu fflSf JtUpDitt 

(Shaykh Ahmad b. Qasim?), which Ma Mingxin had been taught, in the Yemen, by his Sufi master 
Ibn Zayn, i.e. ‘Abd al-Khaliq Zayn al-Mizjaji al-Zabidi {Baike quanshu 2007,345,739) (d. 1181/1767; 
Sobieroj 2010, no. 215; Kahhala 1957-61, 5,110). 

57 A manuscript copy of the text was published as facsimile by Ma Liesun (1992) 

58 Upon my request, the Shaykh also entered the year of copying, viz. 1969, into the manuscript. 



106 


Florian Sobieroj 



Fig- 8: A copy of the Mukhammas written by Shaykh Yan(?) Liangbi Muhammad Ishaq, 

the head of the Jahriyya convent Honglefu Gongbei. Wuzhong, Ningxia, the Honglefu Gongbei 
library. 


The poetic text in Arabic is written in a distinctively Chinese style, i.e. khatt sini, 
with full diacritical dots and vocalizations. The script is compressed and only 
the upstrokes of a few letters like alif and Idm stand out. The ends of final nun, 
mlm and yd’, as well as of rd’ and zay are tapered, letter waw is written dispro¬ 
portionately large. Some letters such as ddd, nun or yd’, in their final form, are 
stretched out to the extent that the subsequent words are embraced from below. 
On the whole, the script of the Honglefu manuscript is more angular than that of 
the facsimile copy as is shown in the curvatures of a number of letters in the final 
position. 

On each folio or page of the manuscript of Busiri’s poem (incipit: Yd ayyuhd 
l-muhtazi min ladhdhati l-alami / yd ayyuhd l-mughtadhi min zallati l-saqami, “o 


Arabic Manuscripts on the Periphery: Northwest Africa, Yemen and China 


107 


thou who art imparted the bliss of pain / o thou who nourishest thyself from the slip 
of sickness”) two half verses of the original poem are preceded by three Arabic 
verses of amplification, thus making a stanza of five lines per page. The composer 
of the Takhmis is a poet called Muhammad Mawlawi Tabadikani n Tusi 

(cf. facs. 168) or - more correctly - Beyadgani al-Tusi. A parallel manuscript, Man¬ 
chester no. 472, has the author’s name as M. b. M. b. M. al-Batatakani. Mingana, 
the cataloguer of the Arabic manuscripts in the John Rylands library, refers to 
Hajji Khalifa 1964, 4,527 for the Persian name and death date which is estimated 
by the Turkish bibliographer as ca. 900/1494. 

The Sini-Arabic text is followed, at the bottom of each page, by three lines of a 
Persian translation written with a thinner qalamf^ On the left margin of the recto 
page of the Honglefu manuscript a Chinese translation has been added written in 
two columns. The language seems less refined than that of the facsimile which is 
given on facing pages and written horizontally from left to right in five lines. Also, 
by contrast to the facsimile, the modern manuscript has interlinear explanatory 
notes in Arabic as well as a heading in the upper margin, viz. al-fasl al-awwal fi 
mabhath ‘ishq rasul Allah “the first passage concerning the love of God’s mes¬ 
senger”. 


2.3.4.2 A small Islamic manuscript collection: the library of the Famen 
menhuan llfing 

To complete this section, I will briefly touch upon one small collection of Arabic 
and Persian manuscripts owned by a Sufi convent in Gansu province and not 
mentioned in Bakhtyar 1994. It may serve to underpin the impression that Islamic 
manuscript collections in the northwest are rather found in the villages than in 
the large cities. 

I saw the collection in August 2009 in a village called Shitouwa 5 at a 
short distance from Linxia. Twenty to thirty manuscripts forming part of a library 
of about a hundred books, are located in the home, a stately mansion vdth a 
large walled courtyard surrounded by agricultural fields, of the present Shaihai 
of the Famen sub-sect of the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya, Muhammad b. 
Shu'ayb, Fa (= Chinese family name) Yuanzhong. 

Some of the manuscripts are in bad condition: the paper is especially 
damaged in the books that were buried in the ground for protection against the 


59 The scribe of both the Arabic and the Persian text, published by Ma Liesun, according to Ma 
Tong (1985,33), is called Ma Yuanzhang 3, The Manchester manuscript, written in an Indian 

TaTiq has also both Arabic text and (rhymed) Persian translation. 



108 


Florian Sobieroj 


Red Guards. Apparendy this strategy proved successful and only a very small 
number of the Famen books were lost in the “years of turmoil”. 

The collection includes Arabic wrorks such as the Maqamat of al-Hariri (d. 
516/1122; Brockelmann 1937-49, 1,325-29) written on traditional Chinese folded 
paper, as well as Persian texts which outnumber those in Arabic. There is a manu¬ 
script of Rtimi’s MafhnawT’” and one containing a glossary of the Tafslr al-Husaynl. 
Some of the manuscripts were copied in the countries of the central Islamic zone, 
from where they were brought to China, but a number of codices originated in the 
work of Chinese Ahongs. These are represented not only as copyists but also as 
compilers and authors.*’^ 

The collection is said to have been bequeathed from one shaykh to his succes¬ 
sor from among the members of the Fa family. The owners’ stamps dated 1326/1908 
found in some of the manuscripts (e.g. in the abovementioned glossary) show 
that the books had already belonged to al-Hajj Sa'id b. Ibrahim al-Khajwi (sic!, 
i.e. of Hezhou) who transplanted this branch of the Naqshbandiyya from Mecca 
to northwest China. 

This transmission of Sufism is attested in two certificates of transmission 
(ijdza) which may be considered as forming the most valuable part of the col¬ 
lection. A Chinese translation of the two manuscripts has been published on 
pp. 15-19 of a booklet written by Hajj Muhammad Shu'ayb b. al-Shaykh Shams 
al-Din al-Khajvn, Fa Yuanzhong.®^ 

The first ijdza (Fig. 9) (= Chinese translation 15-16), written in a neat Naskhi 
hand with full diacritical dots, 18 lines to the page, was issued by a native 
Indian Sufi of Delhi, called Muhammad Ma'sum al-Naqshbandi al-Mujaddidi 
al-Madani, in Mecca, Thursday, 14th Dhu al-Hijja 1339/1920-1921, for al-Hajj 
Muhammad Sa'id al-Khajwi. The ijdza specifies that M. Sa'id entered the Naqsh¬ 
bandiyya order “at the hands” of M. Ma'sum who had taught him the adhkdr, 
various murdqabdt, the “three words” {al-kalimdt al-thaldtha) and the “seven 
realities” {al-haqd’iq al-thaldtha), i.e. various spiritual practices and prayers. 
The shaykh grants him permission to initiate into the Mujaddidiyya and other (!) 


60 According to the colophon the manuscript was copied in Dhu 1-Hijja 1134/September 1722 by 
a scribe who called himself Baghdadi. The town referred to probably is not to be identified with 
Baghdad in Mesopotamia but rather with Persian-speaking Baghdadak in Khwarazm (for this 
place see Algar 1982, introd. 9). 

61 The manuscripts include Persian tracts on Sufism, mostly of the Naqshbandiyya; various 
Arabic prayer books, partly with Arabic and partly with Persian glosses; an Arabic text entitled 
al-Kifdya fl l-Hiddya, on philosophy [by al-Sabuni (?), d. 580/1184; cf. Brockelmann 1937-49, S 1, 
643,20,1]; a Persian commentary on Prophetic traditions, divided in 16 sections (fast). 

62 The booklet is entitled famen menhuan daotongpuxi Ml'H'lSililiHS [Arabic title: al-Silsila 
al-'aliyya al-Naqshhandiyya al-Mujaddidiyya] and was published in Linxia, 2009. 



Arabic Manuscripts on the Periphery: Northwest Africa, Yemen and China 


109 


■ u .‘f 




W»W'> 

‘HV-/ 


^ -AJ J 


\j:, 

_ V\ ^ 

‘HV'- "'-^lt'" -’^ •- ^ 

<u-*-'r 

c; ^ jki^* r; wV 'C 

, • V -p >.^ y’* ^ ^ ‘ ft.' ^ * •■ 

W'^tS'p^^y 

> ,t?AA.a.> i.v,,iX|;r-AH - V'^- . 

^ ^■■, '^ -’. '.vrt 




" ■ ■ ; • 
y- ; 't.. 


Fig. 9: A certificate of transmission (ijaza) issued by a native Indian Sufi of Delhi, called 
Muhammad Ma'sum al-NaqshbandT al-MujaddidT al-MadanT, in Mecca, Thursday, 14th Dhu 
al-Hijja. 1339/1920-21, for al-Hajj Muhammad Sa'Td al-KhajwT. Shitouwa, Gansu, The Famen 
menhuan collection. 


orders {wa-qad ajaztuhu li-Vtd’ al-tariqa al-Muj. wa-ghayriha min al-turuq lil- 
talibin wal-murldin wal-mutawaijihat ilayhim) whosoever he wishes, and also to 
initiate them into all the litanies and gnoses {fIjamV al-awrdd wal-‘ulum) which 
he himself had received from his masters. He continues with the commandment 
(wa-iisihi) to his disciple that he should follow the sharVa and Muhammad’s 
sunna and eschew innovations; to turn to God {tawaijuh) permanently and pre- 



110 


Florian Sobieroj 


occupy himself with the litanies (adhkar), meditations {muraqabat) and God¬ 
pleasing works {mardiyyat) as much as he can. Muhammad Ma'sum concludes 
his exhortation {wasiyya) with the request that al-Khajwi may not forget to pray 
for him in his “pious supplications” and he adds himself a prayer in which he 
asks God to make his student “a guide and one guided”. 

The booklet of Muhammad Shu'ayb contains next to the translations the 
Arabic text of the wird-litany for the recitation by the Chinese Famen Mujaddidi’s 
which also includes the names of the masters of the initiatory “golden chain” {al- 
silsila al-dhahabiyya). According to this genealogy, the authorization to initiate 
novices into the Mujaddidiyya-Ma'sumiyya order was dispensed by Muhammad 
Ma'sum’s son, Abu 1-Sharaf ‘Abdalqadir al-Mujaddidi al-Dihli al-Madani al-Makki, 
the author of the second ijdza (translation 16-19), in Mecca in 1351/1932-1933, to 
Shams al-Din b. Sa'id al-Khajwi, i.e., the son of Muhammad SaTd. 


3 Conclusion 

Arabic manuscripts produced on the periphery of Islam generally follow the 
models typical of Arabic manuscript culture. Certifications of text transmission 
are included in the Yemeni manuscripts as regularly as they are found in the 
Ottoman ones and commentaries written in the margins of the manuscripts of 
Chinese origin are as elaborate as those inscribed in codices from Mamluk Egypt. 
The variation observed, e.g. in didactic poems, is a phenomenon encountered in 
the Maghribi manuscripts as much as in those written in Mesopotamia, although 
the repertoire of the texts transmitted in the Maghrib may slightly differ due to the 
adherence of most of northwest Africa to the Maliki madhhab. 

Many shared features notwithstanding, peripheral Muslim manuscript cul¬ 
tures differ from those of the centre in various ways. In the Maghrib, specific solu¬ 
tions were worked out for the composition of the codex, and the script shows 
greater deviation from the central Arabic styles when compared to the Arabic 
script in China, which places the diacritical dots in an identical manner to the 
“orthodox” Naskhi styles. The Maghribi manuscript culture also differs in the 
use of colours whose gamut is far broader than in the central Arab lands. As 
regards Yemeni manuscripts, some micro-texts are highlighted which seem to 
have been noted on the flyleaves and beginning pages more regularly than in 
manuscripts of the central Islamic lands. Many legal manuscripts of the Zaydiyya 
school strike the reader with a certain austerity and their defective pointing of the 
texts. As is evident from several glosses in the margins of Yemeni manuscripts, 
the Southern Arabian certification procedures differ in some detail from those 


Arabic Manuscripts on the Periphery: Northwest Africa, Yemen and China 


111 


that were practiced in certain other scholarly milieus, e.g. in Ottoman Turkey. 
Arabic manuscripts made in pre-modern China tended to be written on folded 
paper for practical reasons, and the xiaoerjing type of Arabic-based script used 
by the indigenous scribes shows the influence of Chinese characters. The latter 
were used in the margins and between the lines to explain unknown Arabic 
expressions, alongside with the Chinese language glosses written in Arabic script 
preferred by the Muslims. The strong presence of the Persian language in tradi¬ 
tional Chinese Islamic culture shows itself in Persian terms and glosses found in 
manuscripts produced in the Middle Kingdom. 

The spectrum of variation in Arabic manuscript culture is fascinating and 
gives the student of Arabic codicology continuous grounds for delight. 


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Dmitry Bondarev 

Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: 
The Case of Borno, Nigeria' 

1 Introduction 

Manuscripts in Arabic and Arabic-based scripts produced in sub-Saharan Africa 
have long been marginalised by students of Islamic palaeography and codico- 
logy. Although the finely illuminated calligraphic manuscripts of Persia, the 
Middle East, and North Africa attracted the attention of European scholars and 
collectors (Venetian collectors, for example [Carboni 2007,19-20, 35]) as early as 
the 16**' century, manuscripts from sub-Saharan Africa rarely reached European 
collections and libraries. Those few that were available were overshadowed by 
the colourful calligraphic tradition of the Islamic East. 

Until recently, the very notion of “calligraphy” would not have arisen in con¬ 
nection with manuscripts of sub-Saharan origin. In defining and describing the 
various script types known in Islamic Spain and North and West Africa, scholars 
could not help avoiding arbitrary or subjective evaluation: “... there is a rather 
primitive type used in West Africa called Sudani” (James 1980,109, my italics).^ 
Such a priori judgements of primitiveness or sophistication are of little help, for 
they ignore the indigenous aesthetic values of local African writing traditions. 
In Borno, for example, careful, uniform hands characterised by angular thick 
strokes were used specifically for the text of the Qur’an and for some “official” 
documents in local languages, such as genealogical lists and diplomatic corre¬ 
spondence, while more cursive and less careful hands - sometimes very similar 
to the ordinary writing styles of North Africa and Spain in the period from the 
12**' to the 16**' century - were used for anything else (see discussion below). This 
fact clearly indicates that the local writing tradition deliberately applied distinct 


1 I wish to thank Peter Agocs, Nikolay Dobronravin, Michael Friedrich, Alessandro Gori and 
Mauro Nobili for their valuable comments on an earlier version of this article. The work has 
been supported by the joint Germany/UK project “A study of Old Kanembu in early West African 
Qur’anic manuscripts and Islamic recitations (Tarjumo) in the light of Kanuri-Kanembu dialects 
spoken around Lake Chad”, DFG/Asien-Afrika-Institut, University of Hamburg and AHRC/SOAS, 
2009-2011. 

2 Sudani means ‘of Sudan origin’, based on the Arabic term bildd al-Suddn ‘the land of the black 
people’ applied by early Muslim writers to the territories of sub-Saharan Africa which are now 
known as West Africa (from the Atlantic cost to Modern Sudan). 



114 


Dmitry Bondarev 


styles to different types of documents. Even “primitive” Sudani could vary in 
accordance with special aesthetic and practical requirements. 

Major European exploration of African cultures began only at the time of the 
Napoleonic wars; by the mid-19**' century, it had reached an advanced stage. It 
is therefore no surprise that, in publications on Islamic palaeography, the first 
references to sub-Saharan manuscripts appeared soon after the first comprehen¬ 
sive studies of African cultures published from the 1820s to the 1860s (Denham 
and Clapperton 1826, Koelle 1854a and b, Barth 1862-1866). As early as the 1880s, 
the writing style of sub-Saharan origin was analysed and classified as Sudani by 
Houdas (1886). Subsequent work was nevertheless scarce, and it was not until 
after the 1960s that manuscripts of sub-Saharan origin again drew attention from 
scholars working in the field of Islamic palaeography and codicology (Bivar 1968). 

The lack of European scholarly interest in the West African Islamic manu¬ 
scripts is partly explained by the administrative policy of the French and British 
colonies, and by the rise, in the British colonies, of missionary education. In 
French West Africa, administrative support for Islamic education early in the 20* 
century was soon superseded by the fear of pan-Islamic ideas. In 1911, Arabic 
(including Arabic-based writing) was banned in judicial and administrative con¬ 
texts, and Arabic-language publications imported to French West Africa were cen¬ 
sored. The attitude of colonial officialdom even worsened during the First World 
War, when the Ottoman Empire, claiming leadership of world Islam, joined the 
Central Powers (Harrison 1988, 49-56, Robinson 1997, 572, Stewart 1997, 58-61, 
Dobronravin 1999,90). Despite these official trends, some French colonial admin¬ 
istrators (the “administrateurs-ethnologues”), such as Robert Arnaud, Paul Marty, 
and Maurice Delafosse, did play a significant role in collecting local Arabic and 
Ajami literature. However, such scholarly activity was not always in harmony 
with the mainstream policy - Delafosse, for example, “was more or less banned 
from the colonies” after 1909 (Amselle and Sibeud 1998). 

The development of Latin-based orthographies for the West African lan¬ 
guages (which went back to the alphabetic standardisation of the 1850s and was 
summarised in Lepsius [1855]) also reduced academic incentives for studying 
manuscript material in local languages written in the Arabic-based script known 
as Ajami.^ 


3 Arabic script was adopted by many communities in West Africa, independently of the linguis¬ 
tic affiliation of their languages. These scripts are externally and locally known as Ajami, from 
Arabic 'ajam ‘non-Arabs’ by which medieval Arabs referred both to “incorrect” variants of the 
Arabic language and to non-Arabic texts in Arabic scripts, like Persian in the Middle East or 
Spanish and even Latin in Andalusia. The glosses in Arabic manuscripts were often marked as 
'ajami or 'jm. 



Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


115 


The authoritarian inadequacy of colonial administration only added to the 
negative attitude towards Arabic and Ajami writing. In the British Northern 
Nigeria Protectorate, as a result of ignorance on the part of Brigadier Lugard, 
the then High Commissioner of Northern Nigeria (1900-1906), Ajami, which had 
traditionally been used for Hausa, was considered inappropriate on linguistic 
grounds, and as a result the Romanization of Hausa took place (Philips 2004). 
The British colonial administrators nevertheless showed sporadic interest in 
the local Ajami writing tradition (Dobronravin 1999, 91, Philips 2004, 71). For 
instance, Richmond Palmer - the Lieutenant-Governor of Northern Provinces 
of Nigeria from 1925-1930 - collected and described various Arabic and Ajamic 
manuscripts, one type of which will be considered in the present article. 

1960, the Year of Africa- when most of the West African colonies gained inde¬ 
pendence from France and the United Kingdom - coincided with the publication 
by A. D. H. Bivar (1960) of a dated Qur’anic manuscript produced in the second 
half of the 17* century in the Old Borno Sultanate of north-east Nigeria. Bivar’s 
article signalled a return by European scholars to the study of sub-Saharan man¬ 
uscripts. It was a breakthrough in many ways. First, Bivar reported the discovery 
of the oldest dated Qur’an manuscript then known in sub-Saharan Africa (1080 
AH/1669 CE). Second, he presented three other Qur’anic manuscripts of the Old 
Borno Sultanate, two of which, on palaeographic grounds, he established were 
older even than the dated one (both going back to the early 7* or late 6* cen¬ 
turies). Finally, Bivar discovered that all four Qur’ans had interlinear vernacu¬ 
lar glosses written in Ajami, representing Old Kanembu - an archaic variety of 
Kanuri, a major West African language spoken in north-east Nigeria and around 
Lake Chad. 

Bivar’s discovery placed Kanuri as one of the oldest vnritten sub-Saharan 
languages. Other West African languages known for their ancient Ajami writing 
tradition include Songhay (the earliest dated text being epigraphic inscrip¬ 
tions in Arabic with some Songhay morphological items, forms of address, and 
kinship terms on 11* or 12*-century marble tombstones in Gao (Moraes Farias 
2001, CCXII-CCXV), Tamashek (the earliest written evidence is reported to be 
16*-century [Gutelius 2000]), Wolof (17* century [Dobronravin 199,101]), Ful- 
fulde (of which the earliest written evidence dates to the 18* century (Hunwick 
and O’Fahey 1995, Bobboyi 2008,124), and Hausa (probably 17* century [Yahaya 
1988, 31, Philips 2004, 56-7]). 

The early adaptations of Arabic script to West African languages came about as 
a result of the spread of Islam and, consequently, Arabic literacy. The first cultural 
contacts between the sub-Saharan world with Muslim North Africa go back as far 
as the 9* to 13* centuries, and different African regions took their Islamic influ¬ 
ences from different sources. Although West African Islam shares many common 


116 


Dmitry Bondarev 


features across the whole region (such as adherence to the Maliki school of law 
with widespread use of Maliki textbooks Risdla by Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (d. 
386/966) and Mukhtasar by al-Shaykh Khalil b. Ishaq (d. 767/1366) and popularity 
of the book about the Prophet, Kitab-al-Shifa’ bi ta‘nf huquq al-Mustafd, com¬ 
posed by al-Qadi dyad (d. 543-4/1149) and an Islamic creed al-‘Aqida al-Sughra 
by Mahammad b. Yusuf al-Sanusi [d. 895/1490]), there are several distinct tradi¬ 
tions which differ from each other in various ways. 

One of the salient differences manifests itself in the varieties of Arabic script 
used for writing Arabic and local languages. All these types, collectively called 
Sudani, belong to the Maghribi group of the Arabic script typical of the western 
part of the Muslim world, i.e., Andalusia (before the 15‘*' century) and North 
Africa/Maghreb. 

Despite the fact that the first description of sub-Saharan African hands in 
Arabic script (Houdas 1886) was published more than 120 years ago, with fol¬ 
low-up research undertaken by Bivar (1960, 1968), Dobronravin (1999, 2004), 
Blair (2006, 2008) and Nobili (2011) the typology of script types in Africa is still 
in its infancy. Although the amount of manuscript material available for study 
has increased tremendously in the last forty years, thanks to access to state and 
private libraries in West Africa (Mali, Niger, Nigeria, etc), Europe and the United 
States, sub-Saharan manuscript studies still remain a marginal field for Islamic 
palaeographers (cf. Deroche 2004, 86).'' 

The manuscripts discussed in this article are products of the Kanem-Borno 
writing tradition. They include the monolingual Kanuri genealogical lists 
(gargams) of Kanem-Borno rulers collected by Palmer, and the bilingual (Arabic- 
Old Kanembu) early Borno Qur’anic manuscripts first published by Bivar. 


4 Different types of sub-Saharan hands possibly match with what Dobronravin (1999, 94) con¬ 
siders distinct regional Ajami writing traditions of West Africa. The breakdown is as follows: 1) 
Ajami among the western Fulani of the West Sudan (Pulaar area) (modern south Mauritania, Sen¬ 
egal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, and south-west Mali); 2) Ajami among the Soninke (south 
Mauritania, west Mali, east Senegal); 3) Ajami among the Wolof and Serer (Senegal); 4) Ajami 
among the Susu (Soso) and Manding, influenced by the western Fulani writing tradition (Guinea, 
Gamiba, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cote dTvore, Ghana, and Togo); 5) Ajami in the Volta river 
basin and among the Asante (Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Burkina Faso); 6) Ajami among the Song- 
hay and Zarma (Mali and Niger); 7) Ajami of Sokoto and Adamawa mainly in Flausa and eastern 
dialects of Fula (north and west Nigeria); 8) Ajami in Yorubaland and Nupeland (southwest Nige¬ 
ria); 9) Ajamiof Kanemand Bornu in Saharan (Kanuri) and Chadic (Flausa and others) languages 
(northeast Nigeria). See Nobili (2011) for an alternative typology of West African script types. 



Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


117 


2 Kanem-Borno 

As is typical of other West African societies, the ancient Kanem and its succes¬ 
sor the Borno Sultanate were multilingual polities populated by speakers of 
Kanembu, Kanuri, Tubu, (all three Saharan languages of the Nilo-Saharan lin¬ 
guistic phylum), Tuareg, Arabic, Buduma (Afro-Asiatic languages), Bilala (a Nilo- 
Saharan language), Fulfulde (a Niger-Congo language) and many others (map 1). 
The political and religious history of Kanem-Borno is bound most closely to 
three languages: Kanembu - the language of Kanem; Kanuri (the lingua franca 
of the Borno Sultanate) and Classical Arabic: the language of Islam and Islamic 
education.^ 



Map 1: Languages of Kanem and Borno 


5 Kanuri is a major Nilo-Saharan language of the Saharan linguistic family, spoken in north-east 
Nigeria, south-east Niger, north-west Chad, and north Cameroon by about 4 million people. The 
term Kanuri covers both the western dialect clusters - Kanuri - mainly spoken in Nigeria and 
Niger and the eastern clusters - Kanembu - mostly spoken in the Republic of Chad. There is no 
general agreement on whether Kanuri and Kanembu are different languages or dialects. 












118 


Dmitry Bondarev 


Kanem originated in the 9* century CE to the northeast of Lake Chad. It was a 
centre of Islam in the historical Central Sudan by the 13* century or even earlier. 
The presence of Islam, which was adopted by the Sayfawa ruling dynasty of 
Kanem, and the royal court’s particularly strong interest in Qur’anic learning in 
this early period are recorded in various external and local sources.® With the 
development of Qur’anic studies in the ancient Kanem (13* to 14* centuries), 
Kanembu of the early Kanem period {Kanem-bu: ‘Kanem-people’/ ‘the Kanem 
people’) became the language of Qur’anic interpretation, evolving into a codi¬ 
fied technical language still preserved in modern Kanuri society (see section 4.7 
below). 

In the late 14* century, the Kanem rulers {mai’s) and population moved to 
the Borno province of Kanem on the western edge of Lake Chad. By the end of the 
15* century, Borno had become heir in the Lake Chad basin to the Islamic culture 
of Kanem. The city of Gazargamu (variant spelling Ngazargamu), established as 
a capital by Sultan ‘Ali Gaji b. Dunama (mai Ali Dunamami), was the economic, 
political and religious centre of Borno until its collapse in the Fulani jihad of 1808. 

In the course of the Kanem migration to Borno, the western dialects of Kanuri 
spoken in and around Gazargamu became the lingua franca for the vast territories 
controlled by the Borno Sultanate. As a result, Kanembu dialects of the former 
Kanem territories east of Lake Chad were marginalised. Kanembu is now spoken 
by less than 9% of the whole Kanuri- speaking population.^ 

The ruling Sayfawa dynasty of Kanem-Borno was closely linked with the 
Muslim scholarly community: the ‘ulama’ (plural of Arabic ‘alim ‘a scholar’). 
The mai’s (rulers) granted the ‘ulamd’ written charters of privilege {mahrams) 
which exempted them and their descendants from tax and war service (Bobboyi 
1992, 1993). The mahrams were written in Arabic, which was also used in the 
composition of historical and genealogical accounts such as the chronicle “The 
Borno expeditions of Idris Alauma (1564-1576)’’ composed by the Grand Imam 
of Borno Ahmad b. Fartuwa who served at the court of the Sayfawa Sultan Idris 
b. ‘Ali (Idris Alauma) (Lange 1987) or the Diwdn salatin Barno ‘Accounts of the 
Borno Sultans’ (Lange 1977). Together with fiqh (jurisprudence) and tawhid (the¬ 
ology) - the standard fields of Islamic study and writing - Arabic was a resource 


6 For external sources see for example historical accounts by Al-Bakri (5*^ AH/11**' CE c.), Yaqut 
(7**' AH/IS'** CE c.), Ibn Sa'id al-Maghribi (7'*' AH/IS*** CE c.), Abu al-Fida’ (S* AH/14*>’ CE c.), Ibn 
Khaldun (S*** AH/W® CE c.) in [Levtzion & Hopkins] (1981). Local sources are mainly represented 
by Diwan Salatin Borno (Lange 1977), mahrams (charters of privilege) and gargams (genealogical 
lists) (Palmer 1928,1936, Lange 1977,1987, Bobboyi 1992). 

7 Ethnologue’s (2014) estimate of Kanembu speakers is 461,000 in 2006. 



Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


119 


for “considerable literary activity in the poetry of eulogy, elegy, satire, and 
pietism” (Hunvdck 1997, 211). 

Old Kanembu (the language of Kanem) and Kanuri (the language of Borno) 
also had a long literary tradition of which at present we only know the gargams 
(genealogical lists), vnritten in Kanuri, and the Old Kanembu commentaries 
{tafsir) on the Qur’an and translations from various Arabic religious texts. 

There are no extant manuscripts of the Kanem period and only a few early 
Borno manuscripts in Old Kanembu, Kanuri, and Arabic have survived. Two major 
events at the beginning of the 19^^ century drastically influenced literary life in 
Borno, and the survival of sources for the old script culture. First, in 1808, the city 
of Gazargamu was sacked in the course of the Fulani Jihad. There is evidence that 
some Qur’anic manuscripts comprising the Arabic and Old Kanembu commen¬ 
taries were plundered as religious booty,® while the non-Qur’anic or manuscripts 
directly related to the Sayfawa dynasty were most probably destroyed, being con¬ 
sidered hostile or impious by jihad leaders. Then, in 1846 the Sayfawa, the ruling 
Kanem-Borno dynasty, was replaced by the Kanemi dynasty founded by Shehu 
Mohammad al-Kanemi. From that date on, documents related to the Sayfawa 
were officially condemned to such an extent that at the time of the Barth expedi¬ 
tion in 1851 it was, according to Barth, dangerous to possess the genealogical lists 
of the displaced dynasty (Lange 1977, 7).® These “banned” manuscripts are the 
subject of the next section. 


3 Gargams 

Gargam (Kanuri gargdm, ‘history, legend’), also known in literature as Girgam 
(Palmer 1928,1936) is an oral and written genre which represents the genealogi¬ 
cal lists of the Sayfawa dynasty, covering about 900 years of successive rulers 
{mai’s). The gargams were most probably based on oral tradition and served as a 
mnemonic skeleton for fuller and more detailed versions of the chronicles of the 


8 One of the manuscripts discussed below (MS.4MM) travelled from Borno to the Fulani emir¬ 
ate Gwandu where it has since been handed down in the family of Waziri for many generations 
(Bivar 1960,199). 

9 Although, as Lange (1987, 14, n.4) suggests, there is evidence invalidating Barth’s statement 
in that one of the highest officials of the al-Kanemi dynasty possessed a copy of the mentioned 
manuscript “The Borno expeditions of Idris Alauma (1564-1576)” composed by Ahmad b. Far- 
tuwa, who served at the court of the Sayfawa Sultan Idris Alauma. 



120 


Dmitry Bondarev 


mai’s of Kanem-Borno. This is evident from textual variation attested in survived 
gargam manuscripts.“ 

The textual structure of gargams is rather simple and plain. Each ruler is 
briefly described by name, father’s name, and the place where he reigned and 
died. Sometimes, relocation of the court or a significant event associated with a 
particular mai, such as a war or a famine, may deserve a line.^^ 

The gargams show an identical formal layout with wide margins. They are 
written in a careful, sometimes calligraphic hand comparable to the layout of the 
Qur’anic manuscripts touched on later. 

It is not clear when the tradition of written genealogical lists in the form of 
gargams originated. The only dated gargam was apparently written in the late 18* 
century, as is evident from Palmer (1936,107): “The best list of Mais of Borno now 
obtainable is dated 1209 AH /1794/5 AD.” In his translation of the dated Kanuri 
gargam. Palmer does not provide the text where he read the date; so it is unclear 
where the date was put in the original manuscripts and what language it was 
written in. To the best of my knowledge, all other gargams, mostly collected or 
copied by Palmer during the two first decades of the 20* century, are not dated. 
On the basis of Palmer’s notes about possessors of gargams (Palmer 1928, II, 35, 
III, 36), it is likely that the written genealogical lists were carefully preserved by 
local families as old and precious artefacts; which in turn may corroborate an 
early date for the manuscripts. In the same collection of translations of the Borno 
manuscripts Palmer (1928, II, 116-18) suggested a date for one such genealogical 
list, the “Zanua Gargam”; “this gargam must date from about the year 1795 or 
so for mai ‘Ali Hajimi died in 1793”. Since Palmer’s argument is only based on 
the last ruler in the list who indeed died in either in 1793 or, according to Lange 
(1977, 82), in 1792, the date is no more than a terminus post quern which in itself 
is however helpful when dealing with undated chronicles. The criterion “last 
ruler in the list” serves well to establish that the gargams I have so far consulted 


10 Cf. Lange (1977, 8) referring to Barth’s assumption : “ce mode de composition aurait ete inau- 
gure au debut du XVI siecle,... auparavant les informations auraient ete transmises oralement.” 

11 A more complete type of chronicle with extended accounts of events exists only in a single 
Arabic manuscript, Diwan Salatin Barnu Accounts of the Borno sultans’, collected by the fa¬ 
mous German explorer Heinrich Barth in 1850’s (Lange 1977). It is difficult to ascertain whether 
these Arabic written chronicles were part of a tradition that recorded the acts of mai’s in both 
Arabic and Kanuri, or individual undertakings by enthusiastic courtiers to write down Kanuri 
oral histories in Arabic, probably modelled on the comprehensive accounts of mai Idris Alauma 
written in Arabic in the lO* AH/16**' CE century by Ahmad b. Fartuwa, mentioned above. The 
Diwan not only differs from gargams in its more detailed descriptions of rulers’ lives, but also in 
the layout and style of the writing. The Diwan manuscript was produced without ruling and it 
almost lacks margins. 



Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


121 


were certainly written after the Sayfawa dynasty had come to an end. It is known 
that the last mai ‘Ali Bara (Ibrahim) Gana mentioned at the end of each of these 
manuscripts died in May 1846 (Brenner 1973, 65-6, Lange 1977, 82). Therefore, 
the gargams could have been written any time from 1846 to the first years of the 
20* century when Palmer started collecting them. Our knowledge of the codi- 
cological and palaeographic features of the surviving gargams is too limited to 
support a more precise chronological identification. The copies I have examined 
are photographic reproductions made from black and white microfilms which are 
useful only for identification of page size, text layout, type of script, and - very 
uncertainly - condition of paper.^^ The most representative collection of micro¬ 
film copies of gargams (from the “Hunwick collection”) is deposited in Depart¬ 
ment of History, Northwestern University (Evanston, USA). Many of them came 
from Ibadan University Library in Nigeria. In 1964, according to the records on the 
order forms, Ibadan University Library loaned original manuscripts from the Jos 
Museum, Nigeria for microfilming. At that time, the Gargams were part of the so- 
called “Palmer Papers” collection. When I visited the Jos Museum in December 
2006,1 could not find any trace of the original manuscripts. Whether they have 
been lost or transferred to the National Archive of Kaduna, Nigeria is yet to be 
clarified. 


3.1 Hunwick collection 

I now give a description of the Gargam manuscripts as they are represented by 
the four copies of the Hunwick collection (catalogued as “Hunwick/No”). The 
gargams were produced on separate single leaves - a typical West African form 
of loose-leaf binding. Leaf size varies substantially between manuscripts, from a 
smaller octavo format of 15 x ll cm (e.g., H(unwick)/280, H./282) to a larger quarto 
size: 20 x 16 (H/279) and 23 x 17 cm (H/281).^^ Judging from the contours of the 
paper as they appear on the microfilm copies, I would assume that MS H/282 is 
older than others for the simple reason that its corners are oval and slightly torn 
(a sign of wear) while the corners of the other manuscripts look rectangular and 
less worn, which indirectly, may indicate a later period of production. But sharper 
corners could also be well explained by better conditions of preservation, and 
hence are of little use in relative dating. 


12 These copies were generously provided by Prof. John Hunwick of Northwestern University in 
1999. 

13 This Gargam was published by Palmer (1913,78-83) with an inaccurate Latin-based transcrip¬ 
tion and what, in many cases is an erroneous English translation. 



122 


Dmitry Bondarev 


3.2 Layout and script 

All gargams have a distinctive layout (Figure 1). The text is written in vertically 
arranged rectangular blocks with wide margins: it runs from 11-14 lines on a 
smaller page to 14-16 lines on the larger leaves. MS. H/282 shows the greatest 
regularity: it has 11 lines per page except on the last (f.6v) where the twelfth line 
was most probably deemed the last line of the whole composition. This is evident 
from the elongated form of the final word <kargo>^‘' ‘he lived’ (a stretched line 
between the letters ghayn and wdw), which was written for visual symmetry to 
fill the width of the text block (Figure 2). Text lines are almost perfectly even and 
straight in all four manuscripts, with only MS. H/279 showing less careful colum- 
nation. This may suggest that the scribes used a ruling frame (Ar. mistara, see an 
example of a ruling board used in Timbuktu in Hunwick and Jay Boye 2008, 98). 



Fig- 1: The opening page of a Borno Gargam (genealogical list), Evanston, Northwestern 
University, Hunwick collection, MS.H/280. 


14 Angular brackets <> are used for graphic representation. In Old Kanembu data, a macron (“) 
above the vowel represents the so-called “weak” letters used in Classical Arabic for representa¬ 
tion of long vowels, but used for high and falling tone in Old Kanembu. High tone in Kanuri is 
indicated with an acute accent (e.g. a), low tone is unmarked, and falling with circumflex (d). 



Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


123 



Fig- 2: The last page of the Gargam. The last word is elongated to fill the width of the text. 
Evanston, Northwestern University, Hunwick collection, MS.H/282. 



124 


Dmitry Bondarev 


The gargams start with a basmalah - the traditional opening, so called by the first 
three words of the invocation bVsmi Alldhi {ar-rahmdn ar-rahlm) ‘in the name of 
God, the Merciful, the Compassionate’. The manuscripts do not have colophons 
in the sense of additional information about the text, writer, date etc., but there is 
always a kind of “tail”, such as elongated shape of the word mentioned above in 
relation to MS. H/282, or Borno Arabic kumila bi ‘awn-alldh ‘finished with God’s 
help’ as in MS. H/281, or the last word written in a separate line in the left corner 
of the text block followed by the smaller script Arabic word kumila ‘finished’ 
below that last word.^^ These help to visually identify the end of the composition. 

The gargam manuscripts have no punctuation. New sentences start imme¬ 
diately after the final word of the preceding sentence: a common practice in 
Maghribi and sub-Saharan manuscripts. In West Africa, the “zero punctuation” 
principle existed together with marked sentence- or passage-division. Dividing 
marks include a “three-dot” symbol for sentence separation, or division by red 
colour used on the first word of the new passage. Neither of these is attested in 
the gargams, though colour punctuation should not be ruled out until coloured 
copies are available for inspection. 

Indication of page order is supplied by catchwords written below the bottom 
line of the text and copying the first word(s) of the following folio. They are of a 
slightly smaller size than the main text and, as is typical of many West African 
manuscripts, they run parallel to it - a practice that originated in the Maghreb in 
the pre-9* AH/IS* CE century (Deroche 2006, 97). 

The arrangement of catchwords is by no means the only archaic feature of 
the written gargams. As part of the Kanem-Borno Ajami tradition classified above 
as “type 7”, gargams are characterised by a distinctive script type related to an 
old MagribijAndalusi style of Arabic script used in North Africa and Spain from 
the 5* AH/11**' CE to the B* AH/M* CE century. I will expand on this issue below 
in the section on the Borno Qur’anic manuscripts, because they are available in 
colour and therefore more adequately represent the real palaeographic character¬ 
istics of Kanem-Borno Ajami writing. 

The manuscripts are not based on a written archetype. This is evident 
from different order of rulers’ succession and lack of orthographic conven¬ 
tions. For example, the place name Gazargamu - the most famous city in the 
Borno history - is written differently in four gargams: MS. H/279: <gasarkmo>, 
MS. H/280: <gazarkmo>, MS. H/281: <gazarkomo>, and MS. H/282: <qasargmo>. 


15 The Borno Arabic form kumila is a variant of the Classical Arabic kammala ‘finished’. This 
reading is found in bilingual Borno manuscripts (e.g. in al-'Aqlda al-Sughrd, the collection of 
Dr Kyari Sherif, Maiduguri). Cf. modern Shuwa (Nigerian) Arabic: kimil(a) as intransitive of 
kammal(a) ‘finished’ (Jonathan Owens, p.c.) 



Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


125 


Interestingly, the word <kargd> ‘he lived’ is written identically across all gargams. 
Difference in the spelling of Gazargamu may serve as independent linguistic evi¬ 
dence - in addition to the “last ruler” principle - that the gargams were written 
after it was destroyed in 1808 and its educated circles - who might have agreed on 
a conventional spelling of the city’s name - dispersed all across Borno territory. 
Variation in place names, but unity in the verbal form <kargd>, may also point to 
the oral origin of the gargams (i.e., they were written down as heard) and their 
relatively recent existence in manuscript form after 1808. 


3.3 Language 

In his publications (1913,1928,1936) of material on the history of Kanem-Borno, 
Palmer claimed some gargams were written in Kanuri and others in Kanembu. 
Subsequent scholarship has not questioned his identification. For example, Nur 
Alkali (1987, 2-3), presented excerpts from two gargams as illustrations of Kanuri 
and Kanembu vnriting, one in Kanuri, and the other in Kanembu, both quoted 
from Palmer (1928). 

A closer examination of the language of the gargam manuscripts suggests 
that it is an archaic variety of Kanuri spoken most probably in and around the 
old Borno capital Birni Gazargamu, which was founded by mai Ali Dunamami 
in 1488 and destroyed during the Fulbe jihad in 1808. This interpretation is not 
conclusive because of the paucity of linguistic data available in the gargams. As 
mentioned before, their content is restricted to the names of mai’s, and the places 
where they lived or were buried. A typical gargam sentence consists of a subject 
(i.e., the name of mai N) modified by an apposition (i.e., ‘son of X’), a place name 
with a locative marker (= ‘in P’) and a predicate, almost always the verb <kargd> 
‘he lived’ (a past tense of the verb daga ‘live’). 

MS. H/281 f.2v 

<may ’ali (sic) dnama-mi gazarakomo-n kargo> 

mai (ruler) Ali Dunama-son.of Gazargamu-in he.lived 

mai Ali, son of Dumama, he lived in Gazargamu 

Notwithstanding such restricted data, three diagnostic items help to identify 
the language of gargams as belonging to Kanuri (i.e. the western dialect cluster) 
rather than to Kanembu (the eastern dialect cluster). First, the third-person sin¬ 
gular independent pronoun shi ‘he/she’ is used throughout all gargam texts. Sec¬ 
ondly, there is the locative marker -n, ‘in’; finally there is the past-tense verbal 


126 


Dmitry Bondarev 


form <kargd> ‘he lived’. These items are identical with the corresponding data in 
Gazar, a Kanuri dialect of the late 18th century spoken in the area of Birni Gaz- 
argamu. Gazar, as spoken by a Kanuri Ali Aisami in his late 60s, was documented 
in the 1830s by the German missionary and linguist Sigismund Koelle (Koelle 
1854a, 73). Two of these items - <shi> ‘s/he’ and <-n> ‘in’ - are phonetically and 
morphologically different from the corresponding data (i.e., <ti> ‘s/he’ and <-lan> 
‘in’) of written Old Kanembu texts (which are represented only by the Qur’anic 
manuscripts discussed later). The verbal form <kargd> is likewise not attested in 
the Borno Qur’ans. 


4 Bilingual Borno manuscripts 

The Borno Qur’anic manuscripts differ from the gargams in almost every aspect, 
including language, content, function, period of production, and historical con¬ 
tinuity. The only shared features are the script type and, to an extent, the page 
layout. 

Unlike the gargams, the Borno Qur’ans have intensively been studied from 
the perspectives of various disciplines, including codicology and palaeography 
(Bivar 1960,1968,2007; Bondarev 2006a, Blair 2008), linguistics (Bondarev 2005, 
2006a, 2008, 2013, 2014), and Qur’anic/Islamic studies (Mustapha 1987, Bond¬ 
arev 2006b, Al-Achtar and Bondarev 2008, Bondarev 2013a, forthcoming). In this 
section, I draw on this research to describe some salient features of the manu¬ 
scripts and their content. 


4.1 Collection 

The microfilm and digital collection of Borno bilingual manuscripts on which this 
account is based (inventory number MS. 380808) was founded in 2003-2007 at 
the School of Qriental and African Studies. In 2003, David Bivar donated to SQAS 
Library black and white microfilms of the four incomplete Qur’an manuscripts 
that had been the object of his initial 1960 and 1968 publications.^® This corpus 
consisted of 230 folios in photographic and microfilm form, subsequently all digi- 


16 David Bivar took photographs of these Qur’ans in 1958-59 in northern and north-east 
Nigeria, on behalf of the Nigerian Antiquities Department which at that time was based in Jos. 
Only some of the original negative microfilms of these manuscripts are still deposited in the Jos 
Museum Library. Others have probably been lost (my field work data, 2006). 



Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


127 


tised. In 2005-07, in the course of fieldwork carried out in northern Nigeria by 
Abba Isa Tijani and myself, the corpus of digitized manuscripts was increased 
to more than 4600 folios, including four more Qur’an copies and fourteen other 
bilingual (Arabic and Old Kanembu) manuscripts.^^ The collection now spans a 
period of about 500 years, from the oldest manuscripts found by Bivar, which 
include the so called “Shettima Kagu Qur’an” (MS. 2ShK) possibly created in the 
16*^ or early 17* centuries; the “Imam Ibrahim Qur’an” (MS. 3ImI) with Arabic 
commentary (tafsir) on the Qur’an finished on 1st Jumadi II 1080 AH, equiva¬ 
lent to 26th October, CE 1669; the “Malam Muhammadu Qur’an” (probably early 
to middle 17* century); and the “Yerima Mustafa Qur’an” (late 17* to early 18* 
century).^® All four manuscripts are believed to have been written in or around the 
old Borno capital of Birni Gazargamu, although some linguistic evidence coun¬ 
ters this assumption (see discussion on the language of the glosses in section 4.6). 

The rest of the collection belongs to a later period. The manuscripts date 
from approximately the 18* to the late 20* centuries, and were created in dif¬ 
ferent places in northern Nigeria, from Katsina in the northwest to Maiduguri in 
the northeast. Qne text - a translation of a famous traditional Arabic grammar 
{Nahw Ajurrumiyya) into Qld Kanembu - was written only recently, in 2007, by 
Imam Habib Ali of Maiduguri. 


4.2 Paper 

The manuscripts were kept unbound in loose folios. This practice changed in the 
early 20* century with wide introduction of European sewn notebooks; therefore, 
more recent non-Qur’an manuscripts take the form of notebooks or folded folios. 


17 In November 2005, one of the four initial manuscripts, the “Yerima Mustafa Qur’an”, was 
expanded to a complete Qur’an (724 pages) by means of digital reproduction made from a Nige¬ 
rian original which was in possession of the late Yerima Mukhtar Mustapha, the Waziri (Vizier) 
of Borno. In 2010, I photographed MS.4MM (435 digital pages) which is now in possession of 
Abdullahi Umar, the Vizier of Kebbi, north-east Nigeria. I am grateful to the Vizier for permission 
to photograph and reproduce MS.4MM. The manuscript is incomplete and the initial quarter of 
it is in very poor condition, many leaves being glued together because of water damage. In 2013, 
during my visit to fos, I photographed MS.3ImI (620 digital pages) which had been found in the 
los Museum Library by Michael Biddle in 2011. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the original of 
the fourth Qur’an - MS.2ShK - which was shown to Bivar in Borno. The families who possessed 
MS.2ShK believe the manuscript has been lost. 

18 Another document relevant to this period is a composite copy of the Qur’an deposited in the 
Bibliotheque National de France (N334 Arab 402), eleven folios of which (248v-253v) represent a 
bilingual Arabic - Qld Kanembu manuscript of IT* century (Deroche 1985, 48). 



128 


Dmitry Bondarev 


The early four Qur’ans were written on large paper of folio size which is approxi¬ 
mately equal in all four manuscripts (about 34 cm x 21.5-25.5 cm). The edges of 
the leaves show signs of wear, and the manuscripts are no longer their original 
size. 

The two Qur’an copies produced in Katsina from approximately the 18* to 
early 19* centuries, and the other non-Qur’anic manuscripts on loose leaves are 
written on smaller format paper, usually quarto size (approximately 21 cm x 15 cm). 

It is unclear what type of paper was used in (possibly the oldest) MS.2ShK 
manuscripts. Paper characteristics such as chain-lines and watermarks or coun¬ 
termarks might be helpful in identifying an approximate date of paper production 
and, hence, in dating.^® But this task becomes very difficult without direct inspec¬ 
tion of the originals. Having applied the “virtual restoration” approach (DIAMM 
2008) to the chain-line patterns in the early Borno Qu’rans published by Bivar, I 
earlier suggested (Bondarev 2007), that MS.2ShK might have been written on an 
old variety of Oriental paper produced between the eleventh and 5* centuries, 
but this assumption needs further investigation. 

The dated MS.3ImI was written on Italian paper with a “tre lune” watermark. 
Thus, this is the earliest documented record of the “tre lune” paper used in sub- 
Saharan Africa, dating back to earlier than 1080/1669 (the year of completion 
indicated in the colophon of the manuscript). 

MS.4MM also displays a “tre lune” watermark (and no countermarks) in a 
heavy glossy paper with density of laid lines at 20 lines per 30mm, and chain 
lines positioned at regular 30mm intervals. It is nevertheless impossible to date 
the paper basing only on these features because various Italian tre lune papers 
were produced from the 16* century until 1900, with the majority of them without 
countermarks (Michaelle Biddle, p.c., see also Briquet 1907,314-5, Nikolaev 1954, 
64, Eineder 1960, 88). On the other hand, I could have overlooked the counter- 


19 ‘Chain lines’ are the imprints left on paper by the cords (of reed, bamboo, grass-stalk etc.) 
used for cross-fixing the main supporting cords (called “wire or laid lines”) in the mould over 
which the paper pulp is poured and then allowed to dry. The spacing of chain lines and density 
and thickness of wire lines may provide approximate chronological information for Islamic man¬ 
uscripts, which are otherwise only rarely dated (Humbert 1998). Another, better-known means 
of paper identification are watermarks used by the paper manufacturers as a kind of “logo” or 
identification. In the 16*^ century (the period closest to our oldest manuscript 2ShK), the scribes 
of the Maghreb and Ottoman Empire (linked to Borno by trade and religious routes (Martin 1969, 
1972) used both non-watermarked Oriental paper produced in the Middle East and watermarked 
European paper, although the latter had started to dominate the paper market by the IT® century 
(Deroche 2006,57). If a manuscript is written on non-watermarked paper, or the watermarks can¬ 
not be seen for various reasons, only chain and laid lines serve as evidence for the possible origin 
of the paper and the date of its production. 



Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


129 


marks because I only had two hours (before sunset) to photograph and examine 
the whole manuscript. Judging from the overall palaeographic look of the MS.4MM 
I would rather agree with Bivar who suggested a 17* century date. Interestingly, a 
Maghribi manuscript dated 1692 (Dublin, Chester Beatty Library, Ar.4226) has tre 
lune paper with a countermark VG and trefoil that was produced in 1660s (Niko¬ 
laev 1954, N230). This paper shows great similarity to the paper used for MS.4MM. 

MS.IYM was written on paper resembling that of MS.4MM, i.e., vdth the same 
density of laid lines (20 lines per 30mm) and 30mm spacing between the chain 
lines. However, I could not find any watermarks or countermarks when I was 
inspecting the manuscript in situ in 2005 and 2009. 


4.3 Layout 

Page layout is defined by several features: the arrangement of the text against the 
margins, the number of lines per page, the structure and means of text division, 
and manuscript ornamentation. Manuscripts like the Borno bilingual collection, 
which have multiple contents, have multiple layout structures. Three separate 
text arrangements must be clearly differentiated in the Qur’anic manuscripts. 
These are (a) the main text - the Qur’an, (b) the translation of the Qur’an into Qld 
Kanembu, and (c) commentaries on the Qur’an in Arabic. 

a) The main text: Qur’an 

While the number of lines and the width of margins at the side, top, and bottom 
of the page are all manuscript-specific features (see Bondarev 2006a, 118-123), 
internal text divisions, often ornamental in character, are to an extent typical 
of all Magribi manuscripts of the Qur’an. Features common in most Maghribi 
Qur’anic manuscripts (see discussions in Deroche 2004, 67-96, 2006, 233-236) 
include the rectangular and/or rounded decorations in sura al-fdtiha (the first 
chapter of the Qur’an) and at the beginning of sum al-baqara (the second and 
longest chapter); trefoils (three petals) in red ink for verse separation; triangle¬ 
shaped sign called khamsa ‘five’ (represented by the isolated Arabic letter hd’ that 
has a numerical value of 5) outlined in colour but filled in black, used for every 
fifth verse; and roundels for every tenth verse. Qn the other hand, in Borno these 
typical features acquired a distinctive style renowned for the diversity of asym¬ 
metrical ornamental motifs in rectangular and roundel shapes used for internal 
text division (see Figure 3); also cf. Brockett’s 1987, 46-47 description of a similar 
Borno-type manuscript. 


Dmitry Bondarev 


130 - 



Fig- 3: Borno Qur’an. The beginning of the second chapter sura al-baqara. Rectangular and 
roundel shapes used for internal text division. London, SOAS, Photographic and digital collec¬ 
tion MS. 380808, MS.2ShK. 














Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


131 


b) Translation of the Qur’an into Old Kanembu 

Glosses in Old Kanembu are usually positioned interlineally, parallel to the 
main text in earlier manuscripts and diagonal in later copies. They are typically 
written above the corresponding Qur’anic text, but not necessarily aligned with 
it. As a general rule, interlinear glosses represent two levels of translation of the 
original Qur’anic Arabic: morpheme and word-for-word translations. Marginal 
glosses are also common, and used mainly for the third level of translation: i.e., 
phrase or sentence translation of either the Qur’anic text or (less commonly) an 
Arabic commentary {tafsir). Both interlineal and marginal glosses may be written 
upside down, which indirectly points to the function of the bilingual manuscripts 
(see section 4.5 below). There are two correction signs used for writing in Qld 
Kanembu. Qne is an “insertion” marker for pointing to the place in the Qur’anic 
text where the glosses should be read (the upper part of the letter ‘ain (^), an 
abbreviation of ‘aldmat al-mj’ ila al-hdmish ‘mark pointing to the margin’ (cf. 
Gacek 2007, 222); another is a “linker” marker used for connecting two separate 
lines of a gloss into one phrase or sentence. 

c) Arabic annotations to the Qur’an {tafsir) 

Arabic tafsir in the Borno Qur’ans is in essence a compilation of quotations from 
various authoritative treatises (Al-Achtar and Bondarev 2008, Bondarev forth¬ 
coming). They are normally positioned in compact or elongated blocks, generally 
in the margins. Long passages of commentary normally circle round the Qur’anic 
text. Arabic annotations may also appear interlineally, resulting in textual inter¬ 
actions between the separate commentaries in Arabic and Qld Kanembu. In 
MS.2ShK and MS.BIml, for example, this worsens the legibility of each text (Figure 
4). The marginal text blocks frequently have their sides aligned, a technique used 
to set different quotations apart. The end of the quoted passage is usually sig¬ 
nalled by the Arabic sahha ‘verified’ (Figure 5) or by a “three dots” mark. 

The Qur’an text, Qld Kanembu glosses, and the tafsir were not created in a 
single act of copying. The manuscript consisted at first only of the sacred text, 
with the glosses and tafsir added later in the life-cycle of the book by various 
hands. The incorporation of secondary texts was possible due to wide margins 
with ample space between the lines of the Qur’anic text (see Figure 6). 


4.4 Script 

The Qur’an text is vnritten with diacritical marks (‘pointing’) for vowels - an 
invariable feature across the Islamic world. Like the Qur’an text, the Qld Kanembu 
glosses are also fully vocalised. These assist the reader in distinguishing between 


132 


Dmitry Bondarev 



. ..*>*•.Tvo 




is 

y,^ Jfe 

ItN: S?'1w!^Siii^-ar-ttfflife 


'■ i'5-*^'‘!S58 

"iAfOWW 
\ I > 'arfSitt^ 


"tti- 






1^ V 


Fig. 4: Borno Qur’an. The first chapter sura al-fatiha. Interactions between the separate com¬ 
mentaries in Arabic and Old Kanembu. London, SOAS, Photographic and digital collection MS. 
380808, MS.BIml. 






Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


133 



Fig- 5: Borno Qur’an. The second chapter sura at-baqara, verse 33. The marginal text blocks 
have their sides aligned. The end of the quoted passage is signalled by the Arabic sahha ‘veri¬ 
fied’. London, SOAS, Photographic and digital collection MS. 380808, MS.2ShK. 
















134 


Dmitry Bondarev 



Fig. 6: Qur’an. Composite volume produced by Kanuri-speaking '^ulamd’ in Hausa-speaking 
Katsina (NAK). Dated 1117/1705. These three folios demonstrate three separate text arrange¬ 
ments, i.e., (6a) the Qur’anic text, (6b) the Qur’anic text with Old Kanembu glosses, and (6c) 
The Qur’an, Old Kanembu and Arabic commentary (tafslr). The incorporation of secondary texts 
was possible due to wide margins with ample space between the lines of the Qur’anic text. 
Kaduna, National Archives of Nigeria (NAK), MS.AR33. (a) The Qur’anic text with wide margins. 
No annotations. Kaduna, NAK, MS.AR33, f. 476v. 








Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


135 



Fig. 6: (b) Old Kanembu annotations added between the lines of the main Qur’anic text. 

Kaduna, NAK, MS.AR33, f.265v. 

the Old Kanembu commentaries and those in Arabic, the latter being exclusively 
non-vocalised in the manner typical of standard Arabic script. Non-vocalised 
Arabic commentaries are predominantly written by confident hands unlike Old 
Kanembu glosses which are usually penned by unsteady hands (like in MS.IYM 
and MS.3ImI). The differences in letter-forms and general style between Old 





136 


Dmitry Bondarev 



Fig. 6: (c) Arabic commentary (tafsir) in rectangular blocks written after Old Kanembu 
annotations were added. Kaduna, NAK, MS.AR33, f.364v. 








Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


137 


Kanembu glosses and Arabic annotations may indicate that the Old Kanembu 
texts were written by students, and the Arabic commentaries by teachers or 
people with advanced knowledge in tafsir studies. 

All manuscripts in the collection belong to an ancient calligraphic tradition 
characterised by heavy and angular strokes, and by distinctive letter-shapes and 
pointing (Bivar 1960,1968, Bondarev 2006a). Bivar (1968) suggested that the Borno 
writing tradition represents the ‘IfriqV style,^” so called by Ibn Khaldun, the North 
African historian of the 4**^ century who wrote that the old angular Ifriqi script 
known in North Africa was being replaced by a more delicate {Maghribi) Andalusi 
script brought by the Spanish Muslims escaping the Reconquista. According to 
Ibn Khaldun, the old Ifriqi script was preserved in the Sahara in south-western 
Tunisia. Bivar (1968,9) suggested that the old Ifriqi style was also preserved south 
of the Sahara in the Sahel with the earliest attestation known in the Borno Qur’ans. 
In my earlier publications (Bondarev 2006a, 2006b, and 2007) I followed Bivar’s 
definition. Stanley (1999a, 32-34), however, criticised this view arguing that the 
Borno script style was a member of the Maghribi group of scripts whereas Ifriqi 
was distinct from both. Blair (2008, 66) has further supported these arguments 
and shown that “the script used in the Qur’an manuscripts from West Africa... 
shares many characteristics with the western Maghribi style used in Morocco and 
Andalusia.” In 2008,1 had the opportunity to compare the Borno Qur’ans with a 
number of Maghribi/Andalusi manuscripts (of 6'*^ AH/12* CE to 11* AH/17* CE- 
century date) in the Chester Beatty Library (CBL), Dublin, and I now accept the 
view of Stanley and Blair on the close relationship between the Maghribi hands 
and the Borno writing tradition. However, contra Blair (2008, 69), I maintain the 
view that Borno variety did not derive directly from the Maghribi type of script, 
but rather from their common “Kufic”, or the early ‘Abbasid (Deroche 2006, 216), 
ancestor as suggested by Bivar (1968). For lack of space, I can only briefly sum¬ 
marise the results of this comparison. 

Many graphic and stylistic features of the angular calligraphic script of the 
Qur’an text in the Borno manuscripts are similar to corresponding features of 
the script of the miniature Maghribi/Andalusi Qur’ans of the 6* AH/12* CE - 
17* AH/13* CE centuries, such as manuscripts CBL Is.l443, Is.l444, Bibliotheque 
Nationale de France Arabe 386 (Deroche 2004, 82), and especially a miniature 
Qur’an in a more angular hand produced in Valencia in 1199-1200. The most 
salient features include angular elongated letters kdf, ta’/da’ (with a slanted 
ascender, cf. the same feature in the Borno MS.3ImI, Figure 4), sad/dad (without 
a “touth” as typical of all Maghribi hands), and flat-ending final ta’/ba’ (the 


20 In Arabic, ifriqi means ‘from Ifriqiya’, the region roughly corresponding to modern day 
Tunisia and western Algeria. 



138 


Dmitry Bondarev 






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■c. 


IS5^ t-ici/ •>‘!’i«i. - 





1' '> ^^•♦»ft»>i“^.*'-sl»,QK., ' ' 

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Fig. 7: Many graphic and stylistic features of the angular calligraphic script of the Qur’an text 
in the Borno manuscripts are similar to corresponding features of the script of the miniature 
MaghribT/AndalusT Qur’ans of the 6th/12th-7th/13th centuries, (a) Qur’an copied in Borno, 
llth/17th orl2th/18th century. Konduga, private collection, MS.5 Konduga, f.l2r. 







Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


139 



Fig. 7: (b) Qur’an copied in Valencia in 596/1199-1200. London, N. D. Khalili collection of 
Islamic art, QUR318, f.llla. Courtesy of The Khalili Family Trust. 


feature only found in the “Valencia Qur’an” MS.Khalili.QUR318 (see Figure 1)}^ 
Angularity in Maghribl script copies of the Qur’anic text is not restricted to earlier 
times. Qur’an copies created as late as the 10*^ AH/16* CE-11* AH/17* CE cen¬ 
turies in Morocco during the Sa’di dynasty show a thickness and angularity of 
strokes very much comparable with the Borno hands. Importantly, the Moroc- 


21 MS.Khalili.QUR318 has also been reproduced in James 1992, 95 and Blair 2006, 225. 







140 


Dmitry Bondarev 




vJUis 


Sf '-tr^ , ' 

"ll-.U ^ 

±',1 \ ^jMSb^i 



^>i./)lir)^iyl^^!_lLlil_i;l,»^^^.w ^jVvk^S, ;, i.^.VS^ 

i=£’;jls^j^j i-ii. ^’}i ot><^A’ii. f»^LS 


Fig. 8: Less angular Qur’an hands and various non-Qur’an hands of Arabic annotations in Borno 
Qur’ans are very close to the MaghribT scripts of many non-Qur’an manuscripts produced from 
the 9th/15th to the llth/17th centuries, (a) The Borno Qur’an MS.IYM (late llth/17th to early 
12th/18th century) with Arabic to^/r written in the margins. Sura al-’insan. Note similarity 
between the flexible Qur’an and tafsir hands on the one hand and a typical varieties of the 
MarghribT hand in Fig.Sb. London, SQAS, Photographic and digital collection MS. 380808, 

MS.31ml. 










Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


141 




'fcC.--■sZ.** 4*-*- -MiOi., 

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Fig. 8: (b) Al-Mista‘TnT, by Yunus b. Ishaq b. Beklaresh al-lsra’TlT. A treatise on simple drugs. 
Attributed to the 10th/16th century. Dublind, CBL, Ar. A506, f.2v. © The Trustees of the Chester 
Beatty Library, Dublin. 


142 


Dmitry Bondarev 


can Qur’an reproduced in Stanley 1999b, 46 features final nun without a dot - a 
common graphic characteristic of the Borno manuscripts.^^ 

The Qur’an manuscripts are largely considered a “specific palaeographic 
domain” (Deroche 2006, 218) because they employ script styles different from 
non-Qur’anic hands. In the case of Borno Qur’ans however, this distinction is not 
always relevant because the hands of Arabic annotations are sometimes identi¬ 
cal to those of the main Qur’an texts (see Figures 4, 5, and 6c). Qn average, less 
angular Qur’an hands and various non-Qur’an hands of Arabic annotations rep¬ 
resent a baseline style typical of the entire Borno writing tradition. These flex¬ 
ible Borno hands are very close and sometimes almost identical to the Maghribl 
scripts of many non-Qur’an manuscripts produced from the 9* AH/15* CE to the 
11* AH/17* CE centuries, such as CBL Ar.4440 (9* AH/15* CE century), Ar.4493 
(10* AH/16* CE century), Ar.4506 (10* AH/16* CE century),^^ Ar.4507 (11* 
AH/17* CE century), Ar.4509 (11* AH/17* CE century), Ar.4557 (dated 981/1573), 
and Ar.4946 (9* AH/15* CE century) (Figure 8). All these manuscripts randomly 
demonstrate graphemes that constitute distinctive features of the Borno hands, 
such as unpointed final nun, elongated final kaf, etc. 

There are not so many graphic features in the Borno hands that are not found 
in varieties of the Maghribl script. The only distinctive feature attested across 
all Maghribl hands but not present in the Borno manuscripts is the isolated ta’ 
marbuta (») shaped as inverted coma (contrasting with a circle shape in the Borno 
hands). However, unlike the Maghribl hands that show considerable variation, 
the Borno scribal tradition is very conservative and strikingly uniform at the level 
of graphemic representation of the script. This relative homogenity of the Borno 
hands challenges Blair’s (2008, 69) assumption that they derive directly from 
the Maghribl script of around the 6* century. It is highly unlikely that the Borno 
scribes at that time only selected one particular set of the Maghribl script which, 
together with its distinctive traits, would consistently have unpointed nun, flat 
fianl ta’Iba’, long final kaf and some other subtleties typical of the Borno hand 
but only occasionally found in the Maghribl script. Essentially, there is no single 
Maghribl mansucript which would exhibit all graphic features typical of Borno. 
Qutside Borno, these “Borno type” features are dispersed geographically across 
the whole Maghreb and North Africa and, chronologically, they span a period 


22 Unpointed final nun is also attested in other Maghribl Qur’ans, one attributed to the IS'** 
AH/W* CE century (London, N. D. Khalili collection of Islamic Art, QUR672, reproduced in James 
1992, 224-5) and the other two to the 10**' AH/IB'** CE century (Berlin, Museum fiir islamische 
Kunst, Inv.NrJ7163, reproduced in Deroche 2004, 94) and Dublin, CBL, Is. 1522. 

23 Catalogued as IB^-century; confusingly, however, the watermark and countermark on some 
folios appear 300 years later in date (ca. 1839 according to Nikolaev 1954) 



Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


143 


from the 6* AH/ 12 * CE to the 11* AH/17* CE century. Since these “Borno type” 
features cannot be narrowed down to a certain variant of the Maghribl hands, it is 
impossible to trace the Borno hand back to a single Maghribl source. It is this con¬ 
trast between the diversity of the Maghribl graphic features and the uniform char¬ 
acter of the Borno hands that points to a source different from Maghribl script, 
but related to the both at the prototype level. One possible script that could be 
their common prototype is the early ‘Abbasid (Kufic) script from which both the 
Maghribl and Borno must have been transmitted. This chain of transmission was 
already suggested by Bivar (1968) but he placed Ifrlql script (survived in some 
5* AH/11* CE century manuscripts from al-Qayrawan in modern day Tunisia 
[Stanley 1999a, 33, Deroche 2004,49,70]) as an intermediate stage of the develop¬ 
ment of the Borno hand. Since the Ifrlql type does not share graphic features with 
the Borno hand in the way that the Maghribl does, it is implausible to postulate 
an Ifrlql link in this process of transmission. We do not know any other script type 
which would be closer to the West African style than Maghribl is, and therefore 
it is reasonable to consider the Borno hand to be part of the Maghribl scripts (as 
suggested by Stanley 1999a and Blair 2008). The question will remain as to what 
kind of Kufic/the early ‘Abbasid was their common source. 


4.5 Function 

The simple fact that the Borno Qur’ans are abundantly filled with Arabic and Old 
Kanembu annotations in different hands signals that the manuscripts served 
multiple purposes. Their layout, characterised by wide margins and generously 
spaced lines, indicates that the main text - the Qur’an - was vnritten with the view 
to allowing room for annotation (see Figure 6). As mentioned before, the glosses 
in Old Kanembu are often written upside dovm. This probably reflects their use 
in teaching, placed between teacher and the student. All these characteristics 
suggest that these manuscripts had an educational function, and were applied to 
the studying and teaching of the Qur’an. This is fully supported by a passage in 
one of the Arabic annotations found on the last folio (recto) of MS.3ImI (Figure 9): 

’Abu ‘Ubayd narrated on the authority of Ibn Mas'ud that he said, ‘Free the Qur’an and do 
not mix it with anything else.’ It was narrated on the authority of Ibrahim that he disliked 
[writing] commentaries on the Qur’an, and Malik said, ‘There is no harm in this [writing 
commentaries] in the copies of the Qur’an used to teach the youth...’ (Al-Achtar and Bond¬ 
arev 2008).“ 


24 The quotation is taken from the book al-tahbirf\ ‘ilm al-tafsir ‘The composition on tafsir stud¬ 
ies’ by the famous Egyptian scholar al-Suyuti (849/1445-911/1505). 



144 


Dmitry Bondarev 





W ./V£AjA>^‘>rc 

I, 




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flWc 


Fig. 9: Qur’an. Last chapter sura an-nas. At the end of the main text there is a four line quota¬ 
tion from the book al-tahbTr ff 'ilm al-tafsTr‘The composition on fo^s/r studies’ by the famous 
Egyptian scholar al-SuyutT (8A9/14A5-911/1505). London, SOAS, Photographic and digital 
collection MS. 380808, MS.31ml. 








Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


145 


It is remarkable how this quote visually springs out of the whole page. Although 
in a script much smaller than the main Qur’an text, the lines of the passage, 
which are written in a block immediately after the last verse of the Qur’an, are 
amply sparse, making it stand out prominently against all other annotations 
on the page. What is even more important, however, is that the quote had been 
written prior to any other commentaries - note the way this textual block is sur¬ 
rounded by inscriptions. It means that after having finished the main Qur’an text, 
the scribe indicated that the volume was intended to be used for further writing 
(as happened afterwards as we can see). This is a clear evidence of preparation of 
the Qur’an text for studying Qld Kanembu and Arabic tafsir. 


4.6 Language 

The linguistic properties of Qld Kanembu glosses vary only slightly across manu¬ 
scripts from widely different periods. Qne variety of the language is represented 
equally in the oldest MS.2ShK and MS.3ImI (16*-17* centuries), and in 20*-cen- 
tury manuscripts. The comparison of grammatical structures of Qld Kanembu 
with the spoken Kanuri used during the last century of the ancient Borno Sultan¬ 
ate (late IS*** to early 19* centuries) as represented in the gargams and the Gazar 
dialect of Kanuri (late 18* to early 19* century) as recorded by Koelle (1854a, 
b) shows that major lexical and grammatical differences exist between Qld 
Kanembu and the Kanuri of the Borno Sultanate. This indicates that the language 
used in the glosses was not contemporaneous with Kanuri as spoken at the time 
the manuscripts were created (i.e. between the 16* and 18* centuries), but rather 
reflects a spoken variety of Kanembu, the language of the old Kanem Sultanate 
(10*-15* centuries, see Bondarev 2006b, 2013a, b). 

Due, however, to the restricted Qld Kanembu corpus and the fact that it rep¬ 
resents a highly specialized variety of the language used for Qur’anic interpreta¬ 
tion, it is difficult to ascertain exactly what form of the language is represented 
in the Qur’ anic glosses. It is possible that they combine grammatical structures 
inherited from different chronological stages of Qld Kanembu and Borno Kanuri, 
and as such cannot be placed at a particular period. Rather the language of the 
glosses is best considered a cluster of archaic features dating from the period of 
Qld Borno back to the Qld Kanem period. 

The Qld Kanembu glosses are written according to rather regular spelling con¬ 
ventions within a single manuscript. This is irrespective of the fact that in each 
manuscript the glosses were written by a number of different scribes. Qrthography 
nevertheless varies from manuscript to manuscript. For example, the grapheme 
<th> does not occur in MS.2ShK, as it does in MS.IYM. Instead, the grapheme <s> 


146 


Dmitry Bondarev 


is used in the corresponding lexemes: <siki> (MS.2ShK) - <tMgi> (MS.IYM) ‘there 
is’, <sa> (MS.2ShK) - <tha> (MS.IYM) ‘they say’, <srakd> (MS.2ShK) - <thrago> 
(MS.IYM) ‘he wants’, <satalkl> (MS.2ShK) - <thutulugi> (MS.IYM) ‘he took out’. 

It is possible that the spelling systems applied to Old Kanembu by the scribes 
of MS.IYM and MS.2ShK were influenced by the different Kanuri or Kanembu dia¬ 
lects they spoke in everyday life. This manuscript-specific orthography may indi¬ 
cate that the Borno Qur’ans were created in different places and not only in the 
capital city Birni Gazargamu. On the other hand, some orthographic conventions 
are apparently universal, such as the personal pronouns <hu> ‘I’, <ni> ‘you’, and 
<ti> ‘he/she’, to mention just a few. This further corroborates the hypothesis that 
Old Kanembu of Borno Qur’ans represents a kind of standard, literate form of the 
language which transcends dialect. 


4.7 The continuation of the archaic tradition: Tarjumo 

A descendant of Old Kanembu survives in modern-day Borno in the form of a 
largely unreported language known locally as “Tarjumo” (Tela 1994, Bondarev 
2006b, 2013a, b). This language functions synchronically only as a language 
for Islamic scholars, and it is entirely unintelligible to most speakers of modern 
Kanuri. Its only use is as a language of vernacular commentary on texts written 
and read in Arabic. Etymologically, the term Tarjumo derives from the Arabic verb 
tarjama (‘to translate, interpret’), and the noun tarjamat (‘translation, interpreta¬ 
tion’). Its application to the exegetical medium of Qur’anic interpretation is met¬ 
onymic: the language is named according to the concept or function associated 
with it. 

Preliminary analysis of Tarjumo shows that its linguistic structure is much 
closer to Old Kanembu than to modern Kanuri (Bondarev 2006b, 2013a, b). This 
is illustrated by the following example: 

Qur’anic Arabic (Qur’an 79,11): 

'a’idha kunna ‘izdma nakhira 
when we.were bones decayed 

‘after we were decayed bones’ (interpreted in tafslr: ‘after we have returned to 
decayed bones’) 


Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


147 


Old Kanembu (MS.IYM); 

<tsa tadiki -va shila dint-bu -ro tadiki -va> 

us.were.made-when bone aging-PRTCP-IO it.was.made-when^^ 

‘after we were old bones’ (lit. ‘after we were made old bones’) 

Tarjumo; 

andiye tadi -ve-va shilawd dintd-bu -w \\andiye tadiv eva || 

we.SJ were-we-when bones aging-PRTCP-IO 

‘after we were old bones’ 

(Double vertical lines (||) indicate a repeated passage). 

Modern Kanuri (Luwuran Kambo 2003,7): 

ngdwo shila mbas-kdta-ro wdlnyena-da-n 

after bones decay-PAST.PRTCPL-IO we.return-the-at 
‘after we have returned to decaying bones’ 

As evident from the above, Tarjumo shows a close grammatical and lexical rela¬ 
tion to Old Kanembu, while Modern Kanuri differs remarkably from both Old 
Kanembu and Tarjumo. The items cognate in Old Kanembu and Tarjumo (but not 
present in modern Kanuri) are underlined. Old Kanembu grammatical structures 
are not always preserved in Tarjumo, many of them being reanalysed in accor¬ 
dance with modern Kanuri grammar. For example, the word-forms <tsatadiki> 
‘we were made’ and <tadiki> ‘was made’, which are passive forms of the verb 
<tsigi> ‘to be’ in Old Kanembu, were reinterpreted in Tarjumo as active forms of a 
non-existent Old Kanembu verb *tadi with the same meaning ‘to be’. 

Tarjumo mainly functions in the oral domain as a medium for interpreting 
written Arabic texts like the Qur’an (with the mandatory use of an Arabic tafsir, 
mainly Tafsir al-Jaldlayn by al-Suyuti and al-Mahalli), qasida’s (versified compo¬ 
sitions) written by local sheikhs in Arabic, or invocations (used as healing and 
purifying techniques) based on Kitdb al-shifd’ of Qadi Tyad. 

Like the Old Kanembu of the Old Borno manuscripts, Tarjumo also exists in 
written form for educational purposes and for translation of various religious 
texts in Arabic, such as Umm al-bardhin {al-‘aqida al-sughrd by al-Santisi) and 
the Tawhid (doctrine of the oneness of God) section of al-Murshid al-Mu'in (‘The 
helpful guide’) by Ibn ‘Ashur (Figure 10). 


25 Abbreviations: 10 - indirect object, PRTCP - particple, SJ - subject marker. 







148 


Dmitry Bondarev 



Fig. 10: The Tawhid section of at-Murshid al- Mu'in (The Helpful Guide), Maiduguri, Imam Habib 
collection, MS.Tawhid/1. 


In Qur’anic education, Tarjumo is introduced as a special subject when students 
of the traditional advanced Qur’anic schools start studying the tafsir. The teach¬ 
ing method is based on integrated oral and written transmission. Starting from 
the last sum’s the malam (‘teacher’) reads short passages of the Qur’an, broken 
down into smaller phrases, each accompanied by a short phrase in Tarjumo. The 




Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


149 


student writes the pronounced passage down and repeats it until it is learned by 
heart. In former times, the text would have been written on a wooden slate {alio < 
Ar. lawh) until the student was allowed to write on paper in a manuscript. In our 
time, the text is vnritten in a notebook with non-standardized rules for spelling 
the Tarjumo words - a practice different from the orthographic tradition used in 
the past as represented by Borno Qur’ans. 


5 Conclusions 

The political and religious history of Kanem-Borno is attested in two traditions of 
written literature: the monolingual manuscripts of the Borno Sultanate written in 
Kanuri, and the bilingual manuscripts in Arabic and Old Kanembu. 

As shown in Table 1, the two manuscript traditions are distinguished by 
five parameters. The only shared features are script type and, to an extent, page 
layout. 

Tab. 1: Comparative characteristics of gargams and bilingual Borno manuscripts 


Parameter 

Gargams 

Bilingual Borno manuscripts 

1. Language 

Monolingual: Kanuri of the Borno 
period (ca. 18-19th cc.) 

Bilingual: (Qur’anic) Arabic and Qld 
Kanembu 

2. Content 

Historical information: genealogies. 

Non-historical information: commentaries 

on the Qur’an 

3. Function 

Secular: mnemonic texts based on 
genealogical recitation at the court 
of the ruler. 

Religious: annotations used in Qur’anic 
education for advanced students in Qld 
Kanembu/Tarjumo and tafsTr. 

4. Historical 
continuity 

Discontinued (with the fall of the 
Syfuwa dynasty in 1846.) 

Continuing (in oral and written form in 
form of commentary on the Qur’an and 
other religious texts in Arabic). 

5. Period of 
production 

18'*' to 19"' centuries 

16"'-17"' to 21"' centuries 

6. Script 

Borno type of Arabic script related to Maghribi variety 

7. Layout 

Gargams copy some of the arrangement of the Borno Qur’an mss, i.e., wide 
margins and use of a rulingframe. But gargams have no punctuation, nor do 
they use the system of text division found in the Borno Qur’ans. 











150 


Dmitry Bondarev 


The monolingual gargams reflect the history of the former Kanem-Borno ruling 
dynasty, while the bilingual Borno manuscripts reflect the development of Islam 
and Qur’anic studies in Kanem-Borno. These two “histories” are not easy to sep¬ 
arate because of close connection of Qur’anic learning with the royal Sayfawa 
court. 

As mentioned in section 2, the ruling dynasty adopted Islam and engaged 
itself directly with Qur’anic education from the early Kanem period. According 
to the Arab historian al-Maqrizi (d. 845/1442), in the first half of the 13‘*^ century 
a Kanem mai - most probably Dunama Dabalemi who ruled in 606-646/1210- 
1248 - built the madrasa called Ibn Rashiq in Cairo for students from Kanem 
(Lange 1977, 72, Levtzion and Hopkins 1981, 353). 

If we also recall the mentioned custom, practiced by the Sayfawa dynasty, of 
granting Muslim scholars charters of privilege (section 2), it will be clear that close 
association between the court and the Muslim scholarly community had been a 
rule for all mai’s. The mahram’s as written documents confirmed the granting of 
hurma (inviolability) to an ‘alim ‘a scholar’ in return for his promise to pray for the 
mai and provide him haraka (blessing). The mahram system maintained support 
of ‘ulama’hy the rulers, because the rulers sought blessing and feared their curse 
(Bobboy 1992, 125-126), but the system also encouraged and sustained Islamic 
learning, since “the inviolability of the mallamtis [i.e., state protected scholarly 
villages] ... attracted a large number of students and provided a stable basis for 
the conduct of educational activities during the Sayafawa period...” (ibid, 127). 

The component of the ruling power is imbedded in the history of Islamic edu¬ 
cation in Borno, especially in tafsir studies. The Kanuri oral tradition ascribes the 
foundation of advanced tafsir studies in early Borno to mai ‘Ali Gaji b. Dunama 
(Mustapha 1987) whose reign (869-902/1465-1497 [Lange 1977, 91]) is also asso¬ 
ciated with the establishment of the Borno capital Gazargamu in 1480. Qn his 
pilgrimage to Mecca in 1484, he received the title of caliph of Borno from the 
‘Abbasid caliph in Cairo with the assistance of the famous Muslim scholar and 
Qur’an commentator Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (849/1445-911/1505) (Levtzion 2000, 
81). Al-Suyuti’s commentary on the Qur’an (co-authored with his teacher Jalal 
al-Din al-Mahalli) has till now been the most widely read and best known exegeti- 
cal work in Borno and West Africa in general, and has also been used as a primary 
study companion in learning Qld Kanembu in its Tarjumo form. As we have seen 
in section 4.5, the organisation of wide-margin layout for the Borno Qur’ans 
alludes to other famous al-Suyuti’s work. Thus, the name of the renowned Egyp¬ 
tian exegete and the Borno ruler who established the Qld Borno capital and is 
portrayed as the propagator of advanced Islamic learning are tightly linked in 
local historical memory concerning Qld Kanembu/Tarjumo and tafsir studies. 


Multiglossia in West African Manuscripts: The Case of Borno, Nigeria 


151 


The manuscripts examined in the present article - the gargams of the mat’s 
of Kanem-Borno and the Qur’ans of Tarjumo and tafsir education - all originated 
in this particular political, religious and educational symbiosis. It is this that 
may account for their similarities of layout: the scribes who wrote the gargams 
could have modelled their wide-margin texts on the Qur’an manuscripts, so that 
visually the former referred to the latter. This way, in a very concise form as the 
gargams were, the scribes would secure the delivery of a multilayered message 
that could simultaneously hint at the long succession of the rulers, their political 
and religious power and not the least at tight bonds between Muslim scholars and 
the Sayfawa dynasty seen as propagators and protectors of Islamic education. 

Considering their close historical connection to the early Borno Qur’ans pro¬ 
duced in the AH/17* CE century or earlier, it should not be ruled out that the 
gargams came into written existence much earlier than is evident from Palmer’s 
dating (i.e. 1209/1794, cf. Palmer 1936,107). This assumption is, however, unlikely 
to be proved until original copies of gargams are found. 


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Dominik Wujastyk 

Indian Manuscripts 

1 Introduction 

India as a modern nation-state covers the greater part of the South Asian penin¬ 
sula, from the Himalayas in the north to the tip of Cape Comorin, about 3000 km 
to the south. However, as a cultural-historical sphere, other modern states such 
as Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and even to some extent Burma, 
Thailand and Indonesia, share aspects of their manuscript heritage with modern 
India. Countries such as Afghanistan and even western China, especially Xinji¬ 
ang Province, have been important sites of “Indian” manuscript discovery, and 
the Tibetan manuscript tradition was strongly influenced by Indian Buddhist 
models. This is because these surrounding geographical areas participated in 
trade and cultural exchange with South Asia from a very early period, and espe¬ 
cially because of the missionary activities of Buddhist monks. What, then, really 
defines an “Indian manuscript”? 

For most specialists, this expression conjures up the idea of a hand-written 
document inscribed on paper or palm leaf, in Devanagari or one of the other 
alphabets of South or Central Asia, and typically in the Sanskrit, Tamil or Persian 
language. But one has to bear in mind that the boundaries of definition are fluid, 
and that a manuscript from China, written on birch-bark in the Kharosthi script 
of Gandhara and the Middle-Iranian language called Khotanese, may also be 
considered, in many respects, an Indian manuscript, for example if it contains a 
translation of a Sanskrit treatise on Buddhism or ayurveda, or if it was produced 
in a Buddhist monastery that still had living links with India. 

It is also important to remember that Islamic culture began to influence India 
over a thousand years ago, and has left a huge legacy of manuscripts and paint¬ 
ings, especially from the courtly centres of the Sultans and Mughals. Islamic 
Indian manuscripts are often written in the (Middle) Persian language and script, 
but there are also many surviving manuscripts in Arabic and Urdu, written in 
variant forms of the Perso-Arabic alphabet. The present chapter will focus mainly 
on Sanskrit and Prakrit manuscripts, which form by far the greatest bulk of sur¬ 
viving manuscript materials in South Asia, and which represent the continuous 
cultural heritage of India dating back to the second millennium BCE. 

How many Indian manuscripts are there? The National Mission for Manu¬ 
scripts in New Delhi works with a conservative figure of seven million manu- 


160 


Dominik Wujastyk 


scripts, and its database is approaching two million records^ The late Prof. 
David Pingree, basing his count on a lifetime of academic engagement with 
Indian manuscripts, estimated that there were thirty million manuscripts, if 
one counted both those in public and government libraries, and those in private 
collections.^ For anyone coming to Indian studies from another field, these gar¬ 
gantuan figures are scarcely credible. But after some acquaintance with the 
subject, and visits to manuscript libraries in India, it becomes clear that these 
very large figures are wholly justified. The Jaina manuscript library at Koba in 
Gujarat, which only started publishing its catalogues in 2003, has an estimated 
250,000 manuscripts. The Sarasvati Bhavan Library in Benares has in excess of 
100,000 manuscripts. There are 85,000 in various repositories in Delhi. There are 
about 50,000 manuscripts in the Sarasvati Mahal library in Thanjavur in the far 
South. Such examples are easily multiplied across the whole subcontinent. And 
these are only the public libraries with published catalogues. A one-year pilot 
field-survey by the National Mission for Manuscripts in Delhi, during 2004-2005, 
documented 650,000 manuscripts distributed across 35,000 repositories in the 
states of Orissa, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and field participants in that project 
report that they only scratched the surface.^ The former maharajas often col¬ 
lected huge private manuscript libraries, only some of which are publicly avail¬ 
able today. And it is very common for a modest Brahman family today, living away 
from urban centres, to have a cupboard containing two or three thousand manu¬ 
scripts, handed down from a learned grandfather, perhaps. A reader unfamiliar 
with the Indian case, and thinking such numbers inconceivable, might assume 
that these are fragments or single leaves, a kind of trans-continental Geniza. 
That is not the case. These millions of Indian manuscripts are mostly full literary 
works, typically consisting of scores or hundreds of closely-written folios, most 
often in Sanskrit, and containing works of classical learning on logic, theology, 
philosophy, medicine, grammar, law, mathematics, yoga, tantra, alchemy, reli¬ 
gion, poetry, drama, epic, and a host of other themes. Throughout history, Indian 
society has vigorously privileged higher learning, and the record of over two and 
a half millennia of artistic and intellectual work has been transmitted in manu¬ 
script form to the 20* century.'* 


1 <http://www.namami.org/manuscriptdatabase.htm>, consuited 18 August 2011. 

2 David Pingree, personai communication in the 1990s. 

3 <http://www.namami.org/nationalsurvey.htm>, consulted August 2011. Field-survey remark 
from personal communication at NAMAMl (National Mission for Manuscripts), September 2011. 

4 Filliozat 2000 insightfully describes the intellectual and social world of traditional Indian 
learning. See also Pollock 2007, Wujastyk 2007 and Minkowski 2010 on the cultural history of 
early Sanskrit manuscript libraries. 



Indian Manuscripts 


161 


In spite of the great time-depth of Indian culture, and the large numbers 
of surviving manuscripts, the graph of surviving manuscript numbers against 
time peaks in the early 19* century. There are numerically more Indian manu¬ 
scripts surviving from the 1820s and 1830s than from any other period of history. 
There are a number of reasons for this. First, the smaller numbers before the 19* 
century can be explained by the environmental conditions in most of South Asia, 
that are hostile to birch bark, paper and palm leaf. The monsoon climate, and 
the work of insects, mould, and rodents, have destroyed millions of early manu¬ 
scripts. This is why some of the very oldest manuscripts in Sanskrit have been 
discovered not in India, but in the dry, desert conditions of Central Asia, in caves, 
stupas or buried libraries on the Silk Route.^ These truly ancient manuscripts 
are of immense historical importance, especially for the study of Buddhism. But 
numerically they are a tiny fraction of the surviving legacy. Another reason for the 
19th-century peak is the demise of the traditional profession of manuscript scribe, 
in the face of the rise of printing in the 19* century. First lithography, and later 
moveable-type technologies were applied to the reproduction of Sanskrit works 
on a large scale, especially by publishers in Bombay and Calcutta. Some scribes 
were employed to write lithographic prints, but many migrated into secretarial 
and administrative posts within the government, a migration that had already 
begun in Mughal times.® 

An Indian manuscript written on hand-made Indian paper has a typical 
physical lifetime of two to three centuries, after which it becomes increas¬ 
ingly fragile and illegible, and a new copy must be created.^ Of course, much 
depends on handling and use. If carefully preserved, and perhaps revered rather 
than read, paper manuscripts may survive longer, but paper manuscripts in 
South Asia are rare from before 1500. Palm leaf manuscripts are more robust, 
and can last a millennium or more if treated well. For example, the Wellcome 
Astasahasrikaprainaparamita (“The Perfection of Wisdom in 8000 verses”) 
is datable to about 1075 CE, and is still in almost pristine condition.® Palm leaf 
manuscripts tend to wear around the edges. Scribes knew this and often left 
large margins, so even after hundreds of years, the text area of the manuscript 
remained intact. But when material costs obliged them to write close to the edges 


5 Salomon 2003 describes such a collection acquired by the British Library in 1994, and other 
recent finds, mostly dating from the early 2”‘* century CE. 

6 See O’Hanlon / Minkowski 2008 for an exploration of the social history of this change. 

7 Losty 1982 makes important remarks about the earliest history of paper manufacture in Nepal, 
that predated the importation of paper technology from China. 

8 Wellcome MS Indie epsilon 1, at the Wellcome Library, London (Wujastyk 1985,1998); Allinger 
2012 ). 



162 


Dominik Wujastyk 


of the palm leaf, then splitting and erosion of the leaf could lead to loss of text. 
Thus, the Wellcome copy of the Nisvdsatattvasamhitd (“The Tantra of Sighs”), 
written on paper in Nepal in 1912, preserves letters from the edges of the 9**'-cen- 
tury palm leaf exemplar in Kathmandu that have been broken and lost since 1912, 
thus giving the London apograph independent text-historical value.® Birch bark 
was the most fragile writing support used widely in early India, being associated 
especially vdth Kashmir. Surviving birch bark manuscripts flake and split when 
handled, and present almost insurmountable problems for the conservator, with 
encapsulation often being the only recourse. 

While it may seem strange that our knowledge of ancient literature should 
depend on recent manuscripts, this is often the case also for Greek and Latin 
learning. For example, the oldest complete manuscript copy of Euclid’s Elements, 
composed in ca. 300 BCE, is dated 888 CE. The Elements, perhaps the most impor¬ 
tant mathematical work ever written, was transmitted through copy after copy for 
over a thousand years before we have any physical evidence for the complete text. 
In a similar way, Indian literature was carefully copied and recopied for centuries, 
until the 19* century. The great social and technological changes that have taken 
place since then have meant the end of manuscript copying in India on a grand 
scale. Instead, the future survival of this Indian literary and intellectual heritage 
today depends on the discovery, conservation, preservation and reproduction by 
digital means of the last generation of Indian manuscripts. 

A back-of-an-envelope calculation based on estimated figures and attrition 
rates suggest that several hundred Sanskrit manuscripts are being destroyed 
or becoming illegible every week. It is inevitable that some of these losses will 
include unique, unknown, or otherwise important works. Scholars professionally 
involved in Indian manuscript studies are universally afflicted with anxiety about 
this critical state of affairs. Only the Indian government has the resources and 
authority to make serious headway in preserving the Indian manuscript heritage, 
and the establishment of the National Mission for Manuscripts in 2003 was a ray 
of hope.* 


9 Wellcome MS Indie delta 41 (Wujastyk 1985, 1998, v.l, 151-2). Personal communication from 
Prof. Andre Padoux; cf. Sanderson 2001, 5, note 7. The 9^-century exemplar is MS NAK 1-277 in 
the National Archives of Nepal, Kathmandu. 

10 <http://www.namami.org>, viewed August 2011. 



Indian Manuscripts 


163 


2 Writing 

The oldest physical writing in India survives as rock inscriptions. The most 
famous and earliest inscriptions, or epigraphs, are those of King Asoka (crowned 
ca. 264 BCE), who wrote edicts to his subjects in a personal and confessional style 
that communicates strongly across the millennia.^^ Although writing was prob¬ 
ably known to exist outside India before Asoka, it has been compellingly argued 
that Asoka created the first alphabetical writing specific to South Asia, in order to 
promulgate his edicts.^^ He was influenced by Greek and Kharosthi models, but 
created an entirely new script for the language of his edicts, which was Prakrit, a 
common speech closely related to Sanskrit.This script was later called Brahmi, 
and was the ancestor of most later writing systems in India, with the exception of 
the Perso-Arabic family. 

We do not know exactly when manuscripts began to be written in India. 
The oral tradition of recitation and memorisation was extraordinarily strong in 
early Indian culture, and has continued into modern times. It is still possible to 
meet panditas (Brahman scholars) who know seemingly impossible volumes of 
scholarly Sanskrit literature by heart, and memorisation has always been thought 
of as essential to true learning in India. Yet, in spite of the strong privileging of 
memorisation through all periods of Indian history, it is clear that manuscripts 
were vnritten and copied in increasingly large numbers, probably from the last 
few centuries BCE. 

The earliest scripts are the Kharosthi and Brahmi syllabaries. The former 
was normally written from right-to-left, and the script appears to be an Indian 
development from Aramaic models. It was used for the earliest surviving Indian 
manuscripts, the Buddhist scrolls now at the British Library. However, Kharosthi 
gradually died out, and the last use of the script was in writings from remote 
towns on the Silk Route in about the 7* century CE. Brahmi is first knovm to us 
from the Asokan inscriptions, and was continuously adapted and modified over 
two millennia, forming the basis of all the alphabets of Indian origin in South 
Asia today. Script divergence began early, and variants of Brahmi that may have 
been mutually illegible were already in existence by at least the 4* century CE, by 
which time various lists of scripts, some of up to sixty-four names, had appeared 
in Buddhist and Jaina sources.^'' 


11 Thapar 1997 is a standard introduction to Asokan studies. 

12 Falk 1993. 

13 On the early history of writing in India, see also Salomon 1995 and Salomon 1998. 

14 Salomon 1998, 8-9. 



164 


Dominik Wujastyk 


Early Indian scripts and their derivatives all assume that a single character 
or “letter” is a consonant vdth a vorvel. The unmarked vorvel is “a.” Other vorvels 
are written as diacritical marks. These scripts are, therefore, syllabaries rather 
than alphabets. In this respect, the conception of the script’s minimal units as 
syllables is in tune with the sophisticated early literature on phonetics from the 
vedic tradition, in which it was understood that a consonant cannot, in fact, be 
pronounced without a vowel. 

The scripts derived from Brahmi have approximately fifty syllables that are 
conventionally ordered in accordance with a grid of phonetic realities, i.e., voice¬ 
less consonants before voiced, unaspirated before aspirated, in the sequence of 
consonantal stop position from back-to-front of the mouth cavity: velar, palatal, 
retroflex, dental, labial.^*’ No distinction of upper- or lower-case is observed, and 
syllables are pronounced the same in all contexts, making correct reading aloud 
relatively easy once the glyphs are learned. There are two principal challenges in 
beginning reading and comprehension. First, two or more consonants without 
an intervening vowel combine graphically into a new conjunct form that is not 
always visually related to the original consonants. These combinations raise the 
number of commonly-used glyphs to above 350. Secondly, scribes do not rou¬ 
tinely mark all word-breaks with spaces. To read out loud vdth comprehension, 
one needs to know the lexicon without the help of visual cues. For this reason, 
some manuscripts have small vertical tick-marks above the lines, marking word- 
division. 

The earliest scripts known from manuscript writing are related, as one 
would expect, to the earlier surviving specimens of epigraphical script. By about 
700 CE, the Gupta script known from north Indian inscriptions evolved into a 
script called Siddhamatrka, which continued to be in use until about 1200. While 
the Gupta script is almost unknown in manuscripts,^^ Siddhamatrka is found in 
early palm leaf manuscripts from Nepal and Bengal. It is a beautiful, angular cal¬ 
ligraphic script. Apart from its inherent beauty, it is important as the ancestor of 
Devanagari, the script used for the bulk of north Indian manuscripts from the last 
thousand years, and also the script used for the modern Hindi and Marathi lan¬ 
guages. Siddhamatrka is also the ancestor of the Tibetan script, while in north- 


15 Allen 1953, 14 for a discussion of vowel “potestas” amongst the Sanskrit phoneticians (the 
actual sound of a phonic blast, as opposed to the name, “nomen,” or glyph, “figura,” of a phonic 
unit). 

16 Gandharan arapacana syllabary, found in Buddhist documents in the Kharosthi script, is not 
arranged on phonetic principles. See Salomon 1990. 

17 Several early Nepalese manuscripts were said to be in Gupta writing by Sastri 1905,1915, but 
his nomenclature is uncertain. 



Indian Manuscripts 


165 


east India, it evolved into the modern scripts of that region, Bengali, Assamese, 
Oriya and Maithili. 

In north-wrest India, the Sarada script of Kashmir, itself emerging from the 
Gupta script, evolved in to Lahnda of the wrestern Panjab region by the 10* 
century, and then by the 16* century into the Gurmukhi script mostly associated 
with the Sikh communities of the Panjab. 

In South India, yet different ramifications of Brahmi developed, marked by 
increasingly cursive and circular strokes that contrasted with the angularity of 
the northern scripts. This family is today represented by the Telugu, Kannada, 
Tamil, Malayalam, and Sinhala scripts. A special adaptation of the Tamil script 
for writing Sanskrit is known as the Grantha script. 

As can readily be seen from this thumbnail sketch, the story of script in India 
is complex. Scribes would normally be versed in their local script, and so Sanskrit 
was normally written down in that script too. Therefore, manuscripts of the same 
Sanskrit work are often to be found written in three, four, or more quite differ¬ 
ent scripts, according to their locations. The localness of writing traditions also 
influenced textual transmission. Many texts have recensions that are defined by 
the script-groups in which the manuscripts have been transmitted. For example, 
the famous play Sakuntald, by India’s greatest pre-modern playwright, Kalidasa 
(fl. ca. 14* century), is known in different recensions according to the Sarada, 
Devanagari or Bengali script-groupings of the surviving manuscripts, the last 
group having extra prose and verse passages that emphasise the erotic content 
of the drama.* Manuscripts in the Sarada script, normally from Kashmir, where 
Brahman panditas were famously learned and conservative, often preserve early 
textual recensions, and are important for textual reconstruction. 

The student of Indian manuscripts must ideally be able to read several of 
the most important scripts, which would include Devanagari, Sarada, Malayalam 
and Bengali, and be prepared to learn new scripts as necessary. 

Manuscripts written by Jaina or Buddhist scribes often display beautiful cal¬ 
ligraphy, decoration and sometimes illustration. Other scribes most often wrote 
in a workmanlike but unadorned fashion. The vast majority of Indian manu¬ 
scripts are not works of art, for all that they may contain beautiful and important 
literary texts. 


18 lohnson 2001, xxx-xxxi. 



166 


Dominik Wujastyk 


3 Material support 

While wood, cloth, copper and other writing supports were sometimes used, the 
principle writing supports in India have been birch bark, palm leaf and paper. 
Papyrus and parchment were unknovm, the latter due to the vddely-shared 
Brahman religious concepts of vegetarianism and harmlessness to living crea¬ 
tures (Skt. ahimsd). 

Broadly speaking, in the north and west of the subcontinent, early manu¬ 
scripts were written on scrolls made of the bark of the birchtree, flattened, glued 
into sheets and cut into scrolls or sheets. Kashmir was a noted source of the man¬ 
ufacture of this material, which was also exported to Central Asia and south to 
the Panjab. Birch bark was still being used for manuscript production as late as 
the 17* century. Writing on the smooth, flat surface of birch bark was done with 
ink and a stylus, and the horizontal and vertical strokes could be emphasised cal¬ 
ligraphically. This technique carried over to palm leaf and later to paper, after its 
widespread introduction in the early second millennium CE. The most common 
script used on birch bark manuscripts is Sarada. 

The leaves of two species of palm were used as writing supports in India, 
Corypha umbraculifera, the Talipot Palm native to southern India and Sri Lanka, 
and Bomssus flabellifer, the Toddy Palm, native to South and South East Asia.^® 
Leaves were selected for size and quality, and then boiled in water and dried, 
sometimes in warm sand. The surfaces of the leaves were then polished with 
pumice, and cut to regular, long, narrow sizes. A hole was sometimes punched 
in the centre of the leaf so that a stack could be strung together to keep them 
in order. Some older, wider palm leaf manuscripts from Bengal and Nepal were 
written using ink and a calligraphic stylus, as with birch bark. But the most 
common scribal practice, especially on the east of India from Bengal to Tamil 
Nadu in the south, was to inscribe the text on the leaf using a pointed stylus. The 
manuscript would be delivered to its owner in this form. In order to read the text, 
it would have to be wiped with a cloth soaked in oil and lampblack, that would fill 
the incised letters with dark colour and render the manuscript legible. 

Paper-making was invented in China at the end of the 1®* century CE, 
although there are some earlier precursors. Slowly, knowledge of paper-making 
spread over a period of centuries along the Silk Route through Samarkand and 
to Baghdad, reaching Muslim Spain and Sicily by the 10* century. It is unclear 
whether knowledge of paper-making reached India from China through Central 
Asia, Tibet and Nepal, or through Islamic traders in the Indian Ocean, and later 


19 Katre 1941, 6. 



Indian Manuscripts 


167 


the Muslim invaders who entered India from the 13* century onwards. It is notable 
that several of the later centres of paper-making are Islamic-founded cities such 
as Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Faizabad and Aurangabad. Perhaps the knowledge 
arrived from more than one source. Paper began to supplant palm leaf as the most 
abundant writing support from about the 12* century, with some of the earliest 
paper manuscripts being found in Jaina libraries in Gujarat and Rajasthan. 


4 Manuscript libraries 

From at least the 4* century BCE, mendicant groups including Buddhists, Jains 
and Ajivikas, whose vows included a peripatetic lifestyle, were permitted to stay 
in one place for the three months of the rainy season.^” These monsoon sojourns 
evolved over the centuries into monastic institutions that included educational 
functions. New monastic centres of learning that became particularly famous 
included Nalanda (Bihar, from ca. 4* century-1200), Valabhi, Jagaddala (Bengal, 
ca. 1100-1200), Odantapuri (Bihar, from ca. 700), and Somapura (Rajshahi, 
Bangladesh, ca. 8*-12* century).Many of these institutions developed librar¬ 
ies. From the detailed descriptive accounts of the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang 
(602-664), it has been estimated that there were at least 212,130 ordained monks 
involved in scholarship and education in the middle of the 7* century. The figures 
for Jaina monks and institutions of the period are not so well known, but the 
Jainas too developed a large network of temple libraries for the use of peripatetic 
monks, and groups of Jaina monks were also present at monasteries like Nalanda 
that are usually thought of as Buddhist.Many of the Buddhist monastic libraries 
were destroyed by the Islamic incursions of Muhammad Bakhtiar Khilji (d. 1205), 
and others, and medieval Buddhist manuscripts from India are very rare. Jaina 
libraries seem to have fared slightly better, although the many libraries estab¬ 
lished by the 12*-century kings Kumarapala and Vastupala in Patan are thought to 
have been destroyed during the Muslim conquests. Yet there are many great Jaina 
library collections that have survived to the present day.^^ These include the Koba 
Tirth collection mentioned above, as well as the L. D. Institute in Ahmedabad, 
the Jnana Bhandara in Jaisalmere, the Hemacandra Jnana Bhandara in Patan and 
many others.^'' Libraries were often kept in semi-secret chambers or cellars, with 


20 Scharfe 2002, ch. 9; “From monasteries to universities.” 

21 Altekar 1944, ch. 5, Mookerji 1947, passim, Bose 1923. 

22 Cort 1995, 33-44. 

23 Johnson 1999. 

24 Ibid. See also Kasliwal 1967. 



168 


Dominik Wujastyk 


access strictly limited to monks. The broad cultural and philosophical interests of 
Jaina scholars over the ages have meant that Jaina scribes also copied non-Jaina 
wrorks in relative abundance. Jaina manuscript libraries today are of great impor¬ 
tance both for the history of Jainism itself, but also for all aspects of early Indian 
cultural and literary history. 

Today, there are hundreds of major Indian manuscript libraries in India, and 
scores abroad, especially in Europe and the USA. Some are the result of govern¬ 
ment collection policies, others are royal libraries created by former maharajas. 
Yet others are parts of religious endowments, schools, temples, and monasteries. 
Finally, there are many private collections.^^ 


5 Access 

Many manuscript libraries and librarians in India and abroad understand schol¬ 
arship and are extremely helpful to the visiting scholar seeking access to a manu¬ 
script for research. The Koba Tirth manuscript library, perhaps the largest single 
manuscript collection in the world, has exemplary policies towards the promo¬ 
tion of scholarship, and advanced technical and administrative infrastructures. 
But there are exceptions, too. Negotiating access to manuscript collections can 
be tortuous and bureaucratic, and sometimes even the most strenuous efforts 
fail. Some libraries are just inaccessible, locked with several padlocks whose 
key-holders are scattered over a whole state (for example, the Jnana Bhandara 
in Jaisalmere). Others are locked pending the resolution to family disputes that 
have lasted decades (the Anup Library in Bikaner). Others are located in institu¬ 
tions that have little interest in Sanskrit scholarship (the Woolner Collection in 
Lahore), are paralysed by internal politics (the Sarasvati Bhavan, Varanasi), or 
charge prohibitive fees for non-Indian scholars (Baroda Oriental Institute). Cases 
could be multiplied. In moments of frustration, Kosambi’s Law of Manuscripts 
can be a comfort: “It is a general rule (Kosambi’s law!) that the actual use-value of 
a manuscript is inversely proportional to the fuss made in lending it”.^® Reserves 
of patience, good will and time are the greatest assets in accessing Indian manu¬ 
scripts located in traditional settings. 


25 Minkowski 2010 provides a valuable survey of libraries, with a focus on the early modern 
period. 

26 Kosambi 2000 (=1948), 10. D. D. Kosambi was a mathematician, historian, text-editor and 
manuscript hunter. 



Indian Manuscripts 


169 


6 Catalogues and finding aids 

In textual criticism, it has been said, “the hardest part to carry out with complete 
success is probably the business of finding out what manuscripts there are”.^^ 
How does one find out what manuscripts there are in the Indian case? 

In 1868, the government of India instituted a program of manuscript cata¬ 
loguing and collection.^® India was at that time administered in three large “presi¬ 
dencies.” In the Bombay and Madras Presidencies, the funds sanctioned by the 
1868 decision were spent on a series of regional searches by Sanskrit scholars 
including such renowned figures as Franz Kielhorn (1840-1908), Georg Biihler 
(1837-1898), Peter Peterson (1847-1899) and Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar 
(1837-1925), who published reports on their findings, catalogued local collec¬ 
tions, acquired manuscripts where available, and commissioned copies of others. 
These materials were routed to Poona and Madras respectively, where Govern¬ 
ment Oriental Manuscript Libraries (GOML) were established.^® These two librar¬ 
ies still exist, and contain extraordinarily rich collections. Both GOML have issued 
scores of volumes of descriptive catalogues of their collections. These collections 
continue to grow, mainly by private donation. 

In the Bengal Presidency, things were handled differently. Rajendralal 
Mitra (1823-1891) and Haraprasad Shastri (1853-1931), two Sanskrit scholars of 
immense learning, conducted searches for manuscripts throughout Bengal, visit¬ 
ing many small private collections. Their manuscript descriptions often included 
analyses of the subject content of the manuscripts, and the resulting series of 
volumes entitled Notices of Sanskrit Manuscripts offer rich, detailed materials 
for the history of literature, often offering the first modern descriptions of previ¬ 
ously unknown works. However, the actual manuscripts were left in situ, and 
no attempt was made to create a centralized manuscript library in Calcutta. This 
function was to some extent fulfilled by the Asiatic Society in Calcutta, founded 
in the late 18* century, and housing one of the great manuscript libraries of the 
subcontinent. This library too has issued many descriptive catalogues, including 
volumes by Haraprasad Shastri, and continues to be actively managed today. 

During the 19* century, Indian manuscript collections began to be identified, 
studied and catalogued in all parts of India, often by European scholars who lived 
and worked in India most of their lives. At the same time, some personal Indian 
manuscript collections began to find their way to European libraries, as gifts or 


27 West 1973, 64. 

28 The government correspondence and background to this policy were collected and published 
in Gough 1878. 

29 lohnson 1980. 



170 


Dominik Wujastyk 


sales by Europeans returning from India. The first major Indian manuscript cat¬ 
alogues in Europe were those of Theodor Aufrecht (1822-1907) at the Bodleian 
and Albrecht Weber (1825-1901) in Berlin.^” Both these early catalogues provided 
copious extracts from the manuscripts, and presented the entries in a classified 
subject arrangement. It is no coincidence that both Weber and Aufrecht went on 
to write histories of Sanskrit literature. These were the beginnings of what would 
later be called “bibliographical control” of the field of Indian literature. Another 
important catalogue of the period was that of Arthur Coke Burnell, written in 
Thanjavur in South India, and published in London.Burnell’s catalogue was 
the first to present the holdings of a royal library. It called itself a “Classified 
Index.” While Aufrecht and Weber were taking a corpus approach, and catalogu¬ 
ing bounded, selected collections, with few duplicate works, in depth, Burnell 
was solving a different problem, which was to become ever more acute up to the 
present day, namely to offer bibliographical control over very large numbers of 
manuscripts that included multiple copies of several works. His pioneering work 
in this respect was exemplary, and in some ways prefigures the highly condensed 
style of the Census of Exact Sciences in Sanskrit by David Pingree (1933-2005), that 
had similar aims.^^ 

By the turn of the 20* century, the number of published catalogues of Indian 
manuscripts had already grown large enough to demand a general index. Aufrecht 
published such a bibliographical tool in three volumes between 1891 and 1903.^^ 
While it indexed the existing catalogues, its title declared a larger goal, to be “an 
alphabetical register of works and authors.” Aufrecht’s Catalogus Catalogorum 
is perhaps the most important finding aid ever published for Indian literature. 
Over a century later, scholars working on Indian manuscripts still refer to it fre¬ 
quently, and Aufrecht’s judgements on authorship and the identity of works are 
rarely faulted. 

However, half a century later, the Catalogus Catalogorum was no longer 
remotely adequate as a guide to the growing numbers published catalogues. 
Amongst the most important new items to just miss Aufrecht’s Catalogus Cata¬ 
logorum were descriptions by Haraprasad Shastri of extremely rare and ancient 
Indian manuscripts that he discovered in the Durbar Library in Kathmandu,^'* 
and many other volumes and series of catalogues continued to appear. In 1949, 
Venkataraman Raghavan (1908-1979), one of the leading Sanskrit scholars of 


30 Weber 1853-1891, Aufrecht 1859. 

31 Burnell 1880. 

32 Pingree 1970-1994. 

33 Aufrecht 1891-1903. 

34 Sastri 1905,1915. 



Indian Manuscripts 


171 


his day, published the first volume of a New Catalogus Catalogorum (NCC).^^ This 
aimed to update Aufrecht’s wrork, but also to add wrorks in the Prakrit languages 
(vernaculars closely related to Sanskrit). The NCC project, still located at the Uni¬ 
versity of Madras, has attracted the expert wtork of several generations of selfless 
wrorkers. It has suffered many vicissitudes, and almost collapsed after volume 13 
wras published in 1991. One more volume appeared in 2000. Howrever, its present 
director, Siniruddha Dash, has been successful in raising funds, galvanising the 
project staff, and introducing computing technology. With volume 15, published 
in 2007, the project regained its dynamism, and the NCC has now reached volume 
19, that ends with titles beginning with “suhodita”. The project is nearing comple¬ 
tion. 

For the titles that it covers, the NCC is the principle finding aid for Indian 
manuscripts, and the starting point for any serious editorial or literary-historical 
research in pre-modern Indian literature. For works beginning with syllables after 
that point, one has to resort to Aufrecht’s original Catalogus Catalogorum coupled 
with a laborious search through scores of catalogues and correspondence with 
the helpful NCC office in Madras. 

Unfortunately, even the NCC is no longer comprehensive. Raghavan froze 
the list of excerpted catalogues in the late 1960s. A limited number of later cata¬ 
logues were added in later decades, but by no means all that had been published. 
Dash has revised this policy, and the NCC is now excerpting from recently-pub¬ 
lished catalogues. Amongst the greatest troves of new manuscript descriptions 
now included in NCC are the multiple new volumes of the Rajasthan Oriental 
Research Institute (Jodhpur), the Sarasvati Bhavan Library (Varanasi), the Ori¬ 
ental Research Institute (Mysore), the Government Oriental Manuscripts Libary 
(Madras), the French Institute (Pondicherry), the Brindavan Research Institute 
(Brindavan) and the Oriental Research Institute and Manuscripts Library (Trivan¬ 
drum). In spite of these huge additions, the hope for the future must be that the 
NCC vdll eventually be transmuted into a public online resource, with facilities 
for cooperative international collaboration. 

The most comprehensive guide to published catalogues of Indian manu¬ 
scripts presently available is the Bibliographic Survey of Indian Manuscript Cata¬ 
logues by A. K. Biswas and M. K. Prajapati.^*’ This covers 1087 catalogues of Indian 
manuscripts, but being over a decade old, it is already in need of updating. The 
Biswas and Prajapati Survey is modelled on the earlier Annotated Bibliography of 


35 Raghavan et al. 1949-. 

36 Biswas / Prajapati 1998. 



172 


Dominik Wujastyk 


the Catalogues of Indian Manuscripts by Klaus Janert, that remains valuable for its 
accuracy, introduction on manuscript cataloguing, and its notes on collections.^^ 


7 Manuscript description 

From the pre-modern period, there survive numerous informal lists of manu¬ 
scripts. These are commonly nothing more than hastily-scribbled lists of titles, 
often relating to a particular bundle of manuscripts that may or may not still 
be identifiable.^® A more formal and famous manuscript listing is that of the 
great 17*-century pandit Kavindracarya Sarasvati, who lived during the reign 
of Emperor Akbar. Kavindracarya’s catalogue has been published, but unfortu¬ 
nately his library was scattered, and the exact relationship between the list of 
titles and the manuscripts in his library is not fully known.Kavindracarya (or 
his librarian) signed his manuscripts with a characteristic flourish, and several 
are identifiable today in libraries in India and abroad.'*” 

The 19‘*'-century cataloguers, following the 1868 government initiative, fol¬ 
lowed individual styles of manuscript description, which varied from raw listings 
of titles to more detailed catalogues that analysed the works in manuscripts down 
to the level of chapters of works, and gave thumbnail sketches of their contents. 

In the years following Independence, the Indian Government convened a 
Sanskrit Commission, led by several of the most respected Sanskrit scholars of 
the day. The Commission took evidence during 1956-57, and published its Report 
in 1958.'*^ This was a defining document for Sanskrit in India, addressing many 
issues that remain topical half a century later. Among other things, the Report 
published the general results of a tour that V. Raghavan had conducted in 1954, 
identifying Indian manuscript collections in India and abroad.'*^ As a result of his 
engagement with Indian codicology, Raghavan produced a blueprint for manu- 


37 Janert 1965. 

38 For example, Wellcome Indie MSS alpha 746 and alpha 1099 (Wujastyk 1985, 1998, vol. 2, 
143-44). 

39 Kavindracarya’s catalogue was published by Sastry 1921 and has been discussed by Code 
1945. See also Code 1946 and Code 1940. Kavindracarya’s life has been the subject of several 
studies, from Sharma 1935 onwards. 

40 E.g., Wellcome MSS Indie beta 362, beta 509, and gamma 507 (Wujastyk 1985,1998 vol.l, 84), 
all manuscripts on logic. 

41 Government of India 1958. Transcribed at <http://www.education.nic.in/cd50years/u/45/ 
Book45.htm> (consulted August 2011). 

42 Raghavan often prepared rapid handlists of the less well-known collections he visited, and in 
many cases these handlists remain the only finding aids for those collections even today. 



Indian Manuscripts 


173 


script cataloguing in India.'*^ A government scheme was introduced by which 
any library producing a catalogue that adhered to the Raghavan blueprint would 
receive funding from central sources for the publication of the resulting cata¬ 
logue. This scheme has led to the publication of many hundreds of catalogues 
of Indian manuscripts. In essence, the blueprint provides for entering informa¬ 
tion into what today would be called a spreadsheet, with columns for manuscript 
number, title, author, material, extent, and notes. 

Predictably, Raghavan’s influential scheme had virtues and failings. Amongst 
its virtues was that it provided a public reference for untrained cataloguers, it 
encouraged the rapid listing of very large collections, and it was coupled with 
a funded publication scheme. Its failings are more subtle. First, and most obvi¬ 
ously, with roughly a single line across two pages for recording information, the 
blueprint sanctioned the widespread publication of minimal-level cataloguing. 
The resulting catalogues would more properly be termed handlists or accession- 
level cataloguing. Less obvious, however, was the promulgation of the idea that 
a manuscript equalled a work. In this view, a catalogue was a list of titles, rather 
than a list of physical objects. This idea has taken strong hold in Indian manu¬ 
script cataloguing, and has often been adopted as an unexamined assumption 
by cataloguers. Cataloguers of the great European libraries have moved deci¬ 
sively towards describing a manuscript as a physical object that is a carrier of 
written texts that are treated as analytical entries, an approach demonstrated, 
for example, in the exemplary catalogues of Neil R. Ker and Andrew G. Watson. 
This means that each leaf of a manuscript is examined in sequence for what it 
contains, and the contents are described following this physical sequence. The 
introduction and indexes of the catalogue are where a unified view of the liter¬ 
ary contents of the individual manuscripts, and the collection as a whole, are 
presented. 

By contrast, catalogues of Indian manuscripts normally present lists of works 
as if they were lists of manuscripts, silently asserting a false identity between 
work and manuscript. This leads to the elision of written materials that are not 
classical works as such, for example scribal comments, marginal glosses, ovmer- 
ship notes, multiple works, minor works attached to famous works, and so forth. 
To give one example, the Bhagavad Gita, “The Song of the Lord,” the most famous 
religious text of India, is routinely identified as such in manuscript catalogues. 
However, almost no manuscript actually contains the Bhagavad Gita alone. The 
work is commonly preceded by a smaller introductory work called the Bhagavad 
Gita Mala, “The Garland of the Song of the Lord.” What this text is, how if func- 


43 Raghavan 1963. 



174 


Dominik Wujastyk 


tions in relation to the main work, what it meant for pre-modern religious prayer 
and religious practice, and other text-historical questions cannot be asked if no 
catalogue recognises its existence. 

Another drawback of Raghavan’s blueprint is that it does not provide obvious 
space for incipits and explicits. Since pre-modern Indian literature is so vast, and 
still so under-studied, and because many works have similar titles, or exist in mul¬ 
tiple recensions, an extract from the work can often be the only way of being sure 
what work one is seeing. Some cataloguers have realized this, and perhaps been 
influenced by the better “columnar” catalogues such as that of Peter Peterson.'''' 
These columnar catalogues include large appendices giving copious, essential 
extracts from the manuscripts. As a result, a useful compromise has sometimes 
been achieved. Works can be definitively identified, but the Raghavan blueprint 
is adhered to. Thus the catalogue still attracts publication funding. 

Only a few cataloguing projects for Indian materials have brought together 
adequate funding and scholarly expertise. The descriptive work of Chandrabhal 
Tripathi on the Jaina manuscripts in Strasbourg stands out as an exemplary work 
from many points of view.''^ Tripathi’s “Introduction” to the work offers an excel¬ 
lent, concise treatise on many aspects of Indian manuscript studies, and the 
descriptive entries are a model of what can be achieved. The catalogues of David 
Pingree also stand out as models of the concise but detailed description of large 
collections.'''’ Yet Pingree’s catalogues are untypical because of their ability to 
depend so heavily on his literary-prosopographical Census of the Exact Sciences 
in Sanskrit^ 


8 Future cataloguing 

In the longer term, it is to be hoped that international cataloguing standards for 
manuscripts will spread, and influence work on Indian collections as elsewhere. 
Unfortunately, standards promoted by important bodies such as the American 
Library Association make not the least gesture towards the work of Indian manu¬ 
script cataloguing.''® The work on manuscript description done in the context of 
the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) shows promise for the Indian case, and TEI- 


44 Peterson 1892. 

45 Tripathi 1975. 

46 E.g., Pingree 1984, Pingree 2003, Pingree 2004, and Pingree 2007. 

47 Pingree 1970-1994. 

48 Pass 2003. 



Indian Manuscripts 


175 


encoded records may become the standard for exchange and internet publication 
in the future.''® 

In the rare cases when funding becomes available for Indian manuscript cata¬ 
loguing today, it is common for a database to be considered as a first step towards 
gaining bibliographical control over the collection. Unfortunately, because of 
the absence at the present time of an obvious, free standard cataloguing tool, 
individual projects typically implement their own local solutions, and these are 
often naive from the point of view of data analysis and data normalisation. In 
the present author’s experience, only one software tool implements an adequate 
data design for manuscript work, the Philobiblon database currently maintained 
by the Bancroft Library, University of California.®” This tool, originally designed 
for work with Spanish, Portuguese and Catalan manuscripts, has been applied to 
Indian manuscript description with great success, due to its deep analysis of the 
generic data structures involved in cataloguing and prosopography.®^ Critically, 
Philobiblon provides separate tables for people, manuscripts, and works, and 
enforces normalisation and relational links between multi-value fields in these 
tables.®^ However, Philobiblon’s software implementation and other factors mean 
that it remains a niche product, more useful as a model of superb data analysis 
than as a tool for widespread use in the cataloguing community.®® 

A future collaborative, open access, web-based cataloguing tool for manu¬ 
script description and prosopography will, it is ardently to be hoped, one day 
bring bibliographical control of the vast resources of Indian manuscript material 
within reach. 


9 Textual criticism and editorial technique 

Pre-modern Indian scribes and commentators often showed an awareness that 
the manuscript record before them contained imperfections.®® To take but one 
example, from Sanskrit medical literature, the commentators Gayadasa (ca. 1000) 
and Dalhana (ca. 12*^ century) note many variant readings that were in circula- 


49 The TEI Consortium 2010, chapter 10 “Manuscript description.” 

50 <http;//bancroft.berkeley.edu/philobiblon/>, consulted August 2011. 

51 Faulhaber 1991 provides an early description of the data model. 

52 There are, in fact, a small number of further tables, including geographical locations, institu¬ 
tions, and some other key data elements. 

53 Philobiblon is implemented in a Windows-based software environment called Advanced Rev- 
elation/Openinsight, that is a dialect of the Pick operating system. 

54 Colas 2001 (cf. Colas 1999), Colas 2011. 



176 


Dominik Wujastyk 


tion for the Susrutasamhita or “Compendium of Susruta,” composed in the early 
centuries CE.^^ In parts of the text, they note that the manuscripts available to 
them had alternative readings to almost every verse. The variability of Susruta’s 
text was so obvious even a millennium ago that it spurred the creation of a work 
of medieval textual criticism, Candrata’s Susmtapdthasuddhi, “Correction of the 
readings in Susruta,” probably written at about the turn of the 11* century.^® 

The canons of textual criticism and the historical awareness of text varia¬ 
tion and stemmatics that slowly evolved from Isaac Casaubon (1559-1614) 
through Richard Bentley (1662-1742), Karl Lachmann (1793-1851), Paul Maas 
(1880-1964), Giorgio Pasquali (1885-1952) and many others, are equally appli¬ 
cable to the Indian case. The most famous critical edition of a Sanskrit text is that 
of the 19-volume Mahdbhdrata, edited by S. V. Sukthankar, S. K. Belvalkar, and 
others.Sukthankar’s “Prolegomena” to the edition introduced an Indian read¬ 
ership to text-critical methodology, and raised many of the special problems of 
editing Indian texts.^® Many of these issues have continued to be discussed to the 
present day. The size of the manuscript record, however, can be daunting. Schol¬ 
ars of Indian philology and the cultural history of South Asia often lament the 
absence of critical editions of important texts, and the small numbers of scholars 
interested in undertaking critical editions. By and large, these fields are based 
on the study of 19*- and early 20*-century vulgate editions that were published 
in Bombay and Calcutta on the basis of a few locally available manuscripts and 
a policy of selecting “good” readings, with an uncritical attitude towards what 
constituted such readings. 

However, there has been something of a revival of interest in textual criticism, 
stemmatics, and the creation of critical editions of Sanskrit and Prakrit works 
in the last two decades. Several admirable and theoretically interesting critical 
editions have been published,^® and encouraging work continues in text-critical 
work and the discovery, description and analysis of manuscripts. The Nepalese- 
German Manuscript Cataloguing Project at the University of Hamburg is an exem¬ 
plary project of this type.®” The research into Indian manuscript stemmatics has 


55 These commentators’ notes are available in the edition of Acarya 1915. On Gayadasa, see Meu- 
lenbeld 1999-2002, lA, 380-383; on Dalhana, see ibid. 376-378. 

56 Meulenbeld 1999-2002, IIA, 123. 

57 Sukthankar et al. 1933-1959. 

58 Sukthankar 1933. Katre 1941 was written at Sukthankar’s request, as a development of his 
“Prolegomena.” 

59 Examples of exceptional interest from different points of view include Srinivasan 1967, Good- 
all / Isaacson 2003-, Olivelle / Olivelle 2005, Steinkellner 2007. Examples could easily be mul¬ 
tiplied. 

60 <http://www.uni-hamburg.de/ngmcp/index_e.html>, consulted in August 2011. 



Indian Manuscripts 


177 


recently taken an interesting theoretical turn with the application of cladistic 
analysis software and the methods of evolutionary biology to Indian manuscript 
traditions.®^ Such approaches, which have been tried before in other contexts, are 
new to Indian philology. These methods offer the promise of analysing very large 
numbers of variant readings, and perhaps at last making tractable the pervasive 
problem of horizontal contamination. 

In spite of these advances, which have mostly taken place at scholarly centres 
outside India, real progress in the recovery and deep understanding of the Indian 
literary heritage and the ocean of Indian manuscript sources that testify to it, will 
only come when Indian universities awake from their fascination with English, 
however valuable that may be, and begin teaching classical Indian languages on 
a wide scale, together with modern techniques of primary and secondary textual 
criticism. It remains to be seen whether this will happen before the Indian manu¬ 
script heritage has physically decayed beyond recovery. 


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Stefan Baums 

Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an 
Ancient Manuscript Type' 

1 Introduction 

Recent discoveries in ancient Gandhara and its cultural sphere (modern eastern 
Afghanistan and northern Pakistan) have brought to light a rvealth of newr mate¬ 
rial evidence for the oldest indigenous manuscript type of this region: birch-bark 
scrolls in a range of formats, the large majority of them inscribed rvith Buddhist 
texts in the Gandhari language (a Middle Indian dialect descended from Sanskrit 
and related to Pali and the Prakrits) and Kharosthi script (an adaptation of the 
Aramaic script for the writing of Indian texts).^ Prior to these new discoveries, 
only one single manuscript of this kind was known to scholarship - a long scroll 
containing a Gandhari version of the Dharmapada, found outside the center of 
Gandharan culture near Khotan on the Southern Silk Road (Brough 1962) - but 
stray reports (summarized in Salomon 1999, 57-68) had already made it likely 
that a substantial number of Gandharan scroll manuscripts had once existed and 
might be recovered. This process of recovery is now well underway and shows no 
signs of abating, new discoveries of Gandhari manuscripts and inscriptions being 
announced at frequent intervals. Restricting ourselves to those manuscripts that 
at this point have received at least a preliminary description in print, we now 
know of more than 89 Gandharan birch-bark scrolls written by more than 51 dif¬ 
ferent scribes and containing approximately 115 distinct texts from a wide range of 
literary genres (including sutras, canonical verse texts, vinaya texts, stotras, epi¬ 
sodes from the life of the Buddha, accounts of previous and future buddhas, story 
collections, commentaries on canonical texts, scholastic treatises, Mahayana 
sutras, magical texts, a verse abecedary, a treatise on statecraft, a letter and a 
text inventory). One of these sutras (BL 6, see section 6) is written in Sanskrit 


1 Thanks are due to Ingo Strauch (Lausanne) for access to unpublished material in the Bajaur 
Collection, to Reinhard Lehmann (Mainz) for information on the Aramaic scribal tradition, and 
to Jan-Ulrich Sobisch (Copenhagen) for inviting me to present the paper from which this article 
evolved. It was completed at Bukkyo University in Kyoto, and I would like to thank the Bukkyo 
Dendd Kydkai for making this visit possible as well as my colleagues in Kyoto for providing such 
a friendly and productive environment. 

2 The following abbreviations are used to refer to this material: BC (Bajaur Collection), BL (Brit¬ 
ish Library Collection), Dhp-G*' (Gandhari Dharmapada from Khotan), LC (Library of Congress 
scroll), RS (Robert Senior Collection) and SC (‘Split’ Collection). 



184 


Stefan Baums 


using the Brahmi script, and the treatise on statecraft is written in Sanskrit using 
the Kharosthi script. The exact findspots and archeological contexts of the large 
majority of these scrolls are regrettably unknown because they were not found in 
archeological excavations, but only reached scholars after being traded on the 
art market; only the provenience of the Bajaur collection can be established more 
or less reliably from information provided by the finder. On the basis of palaeo- 
graphic and linguistic features as well as radiocarbon analysis, the scrolls can 
be dated to the 1®' and 2°'^ centuries CE, and there are indications that at least 
some of them are as old as the 1®* century BCE (Salomon 1999, 141-155, Allon/ 
Salomon/Jacobsen/Zoppi 2006, Falk 2011,19-20). In addition to these more than 
89 Gandharan birch-bark scrolls, discoveries at Bamiyan in central Afghanistan 
have produced around 275 fragments of palm-leaf manuscripts in Kharosthi 
script, written by ca. 50 scribes and containing an undetermined number of texts; 
a few further specimens of such palm-leaf manuscripts were found in Central 
Asia at the beginning of the 20*^ century (Salomon 1998, Vorob’eva-Desiatovskaia 
2006). Table 1 provides an overview of the scroll and Kharosthi palm-leaf material 
now at our disposal (updating the table in Salomon 2009, 33). 

Sections 3-5 of this article provide a comprehensive description of the con¬ 
struction and use of Gandharan scrolls, on the basis of a detailed investigation of 
ten well-preserved published scrolls supplemented by information from the body 
of unpublished material.^ Section 6 presents a new hypothesis concerning the 
origin of this format.'' 


2 Source material 

The ten scrolls forming the focus of this study were found in three different manu¬ 
script deposits. Six of them (BE 1, BL 5B, BL 9, BL12 + 14, BL13 and BL16 + 25) were 
among the first new discovery of Gandhari manuscripts, in a clay pot from a Dhar- 
maguptaka monastery (Salomon 1999, pi. 5), and were acquired by the British 
Library in 1994; they probably date to the 1®* century CE. Three more scrolls (RS 5, 
RS14, RS 19) belong to the second new discovery, in a clay pot bearing a relic-ded- 


3 The following seven scrolls have been published but are too fragmentary to be used as core 
material for this study: BL 2 (Lenz 2010, 95), BL 3A (Lenz 2010,105), BL 3B (Baums 2009, 269), BL 
5A (Salomon 2000, 218), BL 7 (Baums 2009, 67-69), BL 18 (Baums 2009, 67-69) and BL 21 (Lenz 
2010 ). 

4 The principal earlier discussions of the Gandharan scroll format are Senart 1898, 198-200, 
Kaye 1927, 7-10, Janert 1955/56, 65-74 and Brough 1962,18 (Khotan Dharmapada), Salomon 1999, 
87-109 (Khotan Dharmapada and BL Collection) and Strauch 2008,106-108 (Bajaur Collection). 



Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


185 


Tab. 1: Overview of Gandharan scrolls and Kharosthi palm-leaf manuscripts 


Collection or 
manuscript 

Provenience and 

date 

Contents 

Container 

References 

British Library 
Collection 

unknown 

Istc. CE(?) 

28 birch-bark 
scrolls by 21 
scribes 

clay pot donated 
to a Dharmagup- 
taka monastery 

Salomon 1999, 
Salomon 2014, 

4-6 

Bajaur Collection 

Mian Kill, Dir, 

Pakistan 

Istc. CE(?) 

18 birch-bark 
scrolls by 18 
scribes 

rectangular 
stone compart¬ 
ment in monas¬ 
tery 

Strauch 2008, 
Falk/Strauch 

2014 

Library of 
Congress scroll 

unknown 

Istc. CE(?) 

one birch-bark 
scroll by two 
scribes 

unknown 

Salomon/Baums 
2007, Salomon 
2014, 8-9 

‘New’ or ‘Split’ 
Collection 

unknown 

1st - 2nd c. CE 

more than 16 

birch-bark scrolls 
by more than 
seven scribes 

unknown 

Baums 2009, 
38-39, 42, Allon/ 
Salomon 2010, 

11, Falk 2011, 
Salomon 2014, 
9-10, Falk/ 

Strauch 2014 

Senior Collection 

unknown 

2nd c. CE 

24 birch-bark 
scrolls by one 
scribe 

clay pot with 
relic-donation 
inscri ption 

Salomon 2003, 
Allon 2007, Allon 

2014 

Khotan 

Dharmapada 

Kohmari Mazar, 
Xinjiang, China 
2nd c. CE(?) 

one birch-bark 
scroll by one 
scribe 

next to clay 
vessel in cave 

Brough 1962 

University of 
Washington scroll 

unknown 

2nd c. CE(?) 

one birch-bark 
scroll by one 
scribe 

unknown 

Glass 2004, 
141-142, Cox 
2014, 39 

Bamiyan 

fragments 

Bamiyan, 

Afghanistan 

2nd - 4th c. CE 

ca. 275 palm-leaf 
fragments by ca. 
50 scribes 

unknown 

Allon/Salomon 
2000, Salomon 
2014, 6-8 

Pelliot and 
Ol’denburg 
fragments 

Northern Silk 
Road, Xinjiang, 
China 

2nd - 4th c. CE 

nine palm-leaf 
fragments by 
four or more 

scribes 

unknown 

Salomon 1998, 
Vorob’eva-Desia- 

tovskaia 2006 


ication formula dated to the year 12 (probably of the Kaniska era, and thus cor¬ 
responding to 140 CE), and are part of the private collection of Robert Senior. The 













186 


Stefan Baums 


tenth scroll (Dhp-G^) was discovered in 1892 near Khotan and is now preserved 
partly in the Bibliotheque nationale de France in Paris, partly in the Institute 
for Eastern Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg; it 
probably dates to the 2"*^ century CE. 

It is apparent at first glance that these scrolls have two different physical 
formats. Five of them (BE 1, BL 9, BE 12 + 14, BE 13 and Dhp-G’’') are narrow but 
long, vdth widths ranging from 14 to 21 cm and original heights of up to 250 and 
500 cm (in the two cases where this can be estimated reliably; Figure 1). The other 
physical type (BE 5B, BE 16 + 25,^ RS 5, RS 14 and RS 19) consists of somewhat 
wider but much shorter scrolls, with widths from ca. 20 to 27 cm and heights from 
17.2 to 44.4 cm (Figure 2). These manuscripts contain a variety of textual genres 
that do not have any obvious correlation with their physical types: two collec¬ 
tions of sutras (BE 12 +14, RS 5) and one individual sutra (RS 19), four canonical 
verse texts (BE 1, BE 5B, BE 16 + 25, RS 14), and one commentary on an anthology 
of canonical verses spread over at least three scrolls, two of which (BE 9, BE 13) 
are included in this study. In four of the scrolls, the primary text is followed by a 
secondary text: another verse commentary on scroll BE 13, and story sketches on 
scrolls BE 1, BE 12 +14 and BE 16 + 25. The primary texts of these scrolls were pro¬ 
duced by five different scribes; a sixth scribe added the story sketches to scrolls 
BE 1, BE 12 +14 and BE 16 + 25, and a seventh scribe added the second commen¬ 
tary to scroll BE 13 (see Table 2 for further details). 


5 The extant portion of this scroll consists of a single sheet with a width of 23 cm and a preserved 
height of 40.5 cm, placing it squarely in the range of the short-format scrolls. Its overall propor¬ 
tions most closely resemble those of scroll BL 5B from the same manuscript deposit (Table 2 
and Figure 3). Lenz 2003 does not discuss the construction of the scroll, but needle holes are 
clearly visible to the left of lines 18, 21-22, 25, 29-37, 41-43 and 46 on his plates 6 and 7. While 
stitched margins are more typical of long-format scrolls, they do occur with short-format scrolls, 
and one of the two other clear examples is again scroll BL 5B (section 3). The content of scroll 
BL 16 + 25 corresponds to the last thirteen verses of the second chapter of the Khotan Dharma- 
pada, providing a parallel with the short-format scroll RS 14 which contains the first chapter 
of the Anavataptagdthd and probably formed the first of a set of scrolls (Salomon 2008, 10-11, 
330-331). If scroll BL 16 + 25 was also part of a set, inscribed on the recto only and containing the 
first two chapters of a Dharmapada (pace Norman 2004,118-119; section 4), then the lost text - 
requiring ca. 89 cm of vertical space - can be distributed between two lost scrolls with a height 
of 43 cm each and a lost strip with a height of 3 cm at the top of BL 16 + 25, resulting in three 
evenly-sized scrolls with a height very close to that of BL 5B. Finally, BL 16 + 26 was clearly folded 
in half horizontally (Lenz 2003, 3-4), another characteristic of short-format scrolls (section 5). 



Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


187 



Fig. 1: Long-format Gandharan scroll BL 9 (Baums 2009, pi. 3-9). 



Stefan Baums 


188 - 




Fig. 2: Short-format Gandharan scroll RS 5 (Glass 2007, pi. 1). 


3 Production 

The raw material of Gandharan scrolls was the periderm of one or more birch 
species (especially Betula utilis).*’ This living tissue separates the dead outer bark 
of the tree from the living inner bark and itself consists of three functional layers: 
cork tissue, cork cambium and cork cortex (Yamauchi 2009,15-16). Embedded in 
and crossing through these layers are numerous lenticels, porous areas that have 


6 Previous discussions include Biihler 1877,1896, 88, Janert 1955/56, 65-72 and Vorob’eva-Desia- 
tovskaia 1987-88, 27-38. 







Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


189 


the shape of narrow horizontal ellipses and that are responsible for the exchange 
of gases between the environment and the inner bark of the tree. The periderm of 
the tree stem is further crossed by the wooden tissue of twigs that grow out of it. 

The use of bark as writing material in early Gandhara is confirmed by the 
Roman historian Curtius Rufus, who in the century CE writes in his history of 
Alexander the Great: 

libri arborum teneri baud secus quam chartae litterarum notas capiunt.^ 

A passage from the Mdkandikdvaddna (in the Mulasarvdstivddavinaya and the 
Divydvaddna) lists birch bark and writing utensils that are used at a recital of 
Buddhist texts, presumably to reduce part of the oral transmission and explana¬ 
tion to writing: 

eta darika ratrau pradipena buddhavacanam pathanti. atra bhurjena prayojanam tailena 
masina kamalaya tulena.® 

Writing on birch bark is most famously evoked in classical Sanskrit literature 
by Kalidasa at the beginning of his Kumdrasambhava, where the Himalaya is 
described as: 

nyastaksara dhaturasena yatra bhurjatvacah’ 

and, especially, in the second act of his drama Vikmmorvasiya, where the heroine 
Urvasi uses an improvised birch-bark letter to confess her love to the king who on 
receiving it exclaims: 

bhurjapattragatoyam aksaravinyasah“ 

(see Janert 1955/56, 65-66 for further details of the description of the bark in this 
passage). 


7 ‘(Sheets of) tree bark, hardly less supple than (papyrus?) sheets, capture the records of litera¬ 
ture.’ - It is unclear whether this was the case in the time of Alexander himself or is an anach¬ 
ronism introduced by Curtius Rufus on the basis of contemporary practice; cf. section 6 on Ne- 
archus’s reference to cloth letters. 

8 ‘These girls recite the word of the Buddha at night by lamplight. Birch bark, oil, ink, a pen and 
cotton are needed for this.’ 

9 ‘Where birch skins are inscribed with letters by means of mineral liquid.’ 

10 ‘it is an inscription of letters on a birch sheet!’ 



190 


Stefan Baums 


Tab. 2: Overview often Gandharan scrolls (arranged by width) 



Dimensions (cm) 

Construc¬ 

tion 

Scribes 

Content 

Description 

BL9 

14 X 118.6 +x 

multi¬ 

sheet 

BL scribe 4 

commenta ry 

Baums 2009, 

67-69 

BL13 

14 X 70.3 +x 

multi¬ 

sheet 

BL scribe 4, 
BL scribe 14 

commenta ry, 
commenta ry 

Baums 2009, 

67-69 

BLl 

15.1 X ca. 250” 

multi¬ 

sheet 

BL scribe 1, 

BL scribe 2 

Anavataptagathd, 
story sketches 

Salomon 2008, 
83-87, Lenz 

2010, 51” 

BL 

12-H14 

ca. 15.5 X 76 +x 

multi¬ 

sheet 

BL scribe 1, 

BL scribe 2 

three Ekottarikdgama 
sutras, story sketches 

Allon 2001, 

42-45 

Dhp-GK 

21 X ca. 500 

multi¬ 

sheet 

Dhp-GK 

scribe 

Dharmapada 

Brough 1962, 
18-19, Salomon 
1999, 96-98” 

RS 14 

ca. 20 X ca. 30 

single¬ 

sheet 

RS scribe 

part of 

Anavataptagathd 

Salomon 2008, 

329-330 

BL 

16 + 25 

23 X ca. 43(?) 

single- 

sheet(?) 

BL scribe 1, 

BL scribe 2 

part ot Dharmapada, 
story sketches 

Lenz 2003, 3-7 

RS 5 

26.8 X 27.6 

single¬ 

sheet 

RS scribe 

four Samyuktdgama 
sutras 

Glass 2007, 

72-73 

RS19 

20.9 X 17.2 

single¬ 

sheet 

RS scribe 

one Samyuktdgama 
sutra 

Lee 2009, 3 

BL5B 

27 X 44.4 

single¬ 

sheet 

BL scribe 9 

KhadgavisdnasOtra 

Salomon 2000, 

23-27 


11 The preserved part of this scroll measures 159.8 cm in height (Salomon 2008, 84), and it can¬ 
not be ruled out that this represents most of its original size, which would make it the second of 
a set of two scrolls, originally inscribed with the Anavataptagathd on one side only, with story 
sketches added later on the empty spaces of at least the second scroll. This would provide a bet¬ 
ter match of scroll BL1 with the general pattern of the British Library Collection, in which most or 
all of the scrolls appear to have fallen well short of 200 cm in length and where in all clear cases 
only small amounts of material are missing from the tops of scrolls, but in the absence of positive 
evidence for such a disposition of scroll BL 1 and pending further reconstructions of scrolls from 
the British Library Collection, the editor’s proposal is tentatively followed here. 

12 The dimensions given by Salomon and Lenz differ slightly. The former are followed here. 

13 The empty top of the first sheet of this scroll is not included in any of the published plates. 
The visible portion of this sheet is 40.6 cm high (Salomon 1999, 97), and its total height is here 
estimated as 45 cm. 















Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


191 


We have little information about the production process of Gandharan scrolls, 
beyond what can be deduced from the available specimens. This is partly because 
the use of scrolls died out in the century CE and the use of birch bark for other 
manuscripts ceased in the 17* century CE (see section 6), partly because there 
are few references to the preparation of birch-bark manuscripts in South Asian 
literature.* The only external description is provided by the ll*-century Persian 
scholar and traveler Alberuni who writes (Sachau 1888,1171): 

In Central and Northern India people use the bark of the tuz tree [...]. It is called bhurja. They 
take a piece one yard long and as broad as the outstretched fingers of the hand, or some¬ 
what less, and prepare it in various ways. They oil and polish it so as to make it hard and 
smooth, and then they write on it. [...] Their letters, and whatever else they have to write, 
they write on the bark of the tuz tree. 

Each sheet of early Gandharan birch-bark manuscripts, whether in scroll or 
other formats, was made from one single piece of bark as harvested from the 
tree, and there was no process of laminating several pieces to form a sheet. For 
the palm-leaf-inspired pothi format, this had already been observed by Hoernle 
1893-1912, xix, who speaks of “several layers of periderm” (i.e., a feature of the 
natural anatomy of the bark), and it was further demonstrated by Kaye 1927,10, 
who observed that the same lenticels are visible on the recto and on the verso of 
the Bakhshali manuscript.It was confirmed by the examination of birch-bark 
manuscript fragments from Bamiyan (7* century CE; Yamauchi 2009, 24, 35-36) 
as well as of folio 364 of the digit Dlrghagama manuscript (8* or 9* century CE; 
Jinkyoung Choi, personal communication). That the same holds true of the two 
main types of Gandharan scroll is apparent from an examination of the lower 
edge of the short-format scroll RS 5 (Glass 2007, pi. 1 and 2) and of the long-format 
scroll Dhp-G"^ (Brough 1962, pi. XIII and XIV). The natural layers of birch bark do, 
however, tend to separate as the bark ages, and the application of oil described 


14 Urvasi’s letter is written, on the spur of the moment, on bark torn straight from the tree, 
but this cannot be indicative of the general procedure. The available specimens all show that 
birch-bark manuscripts were very carefully planned and constructed, and from the living inner 
bark rather than from the inferior outermost layers of bark shed by the tree. The passage in the 
Mdkandikavadana provides more detail, but the purpose of some of the materials listed there - 
particularly the oil and cotton - remains unclear. 

15 The statement in Sander 1968, 28 (“mehrer[e] dunn[e], aufeinandergeklebte Schichten”) ap¬ 
pears to be based on a misunderstanding of Hoernle’s description. The formulation in Salomon 
1999, 107 (“component layers or laminations”) is not clear, but that in Salomon 2000, 23-24 
(“only two laminated layers [...] written on a single, unusually large and fine piece of bark”) sug¬ 
gests a correct understanding of the situation. For the sake of clarity, the terms ‘lamination’ and 
‘laminated’ should be avoided in future discussions of birch-bark manuscripts. 



192 


Stefan Baums 


by Alberuni (and possibly alluded to in the Mdkandikavaddna) may partly serve 
to introduce additional, more permanent adhesive between the layers of the 
bark (cf. Yamauchi 2009, 48-49 for a similar experimental procedure applied in 
modern conservation). Another effect of the oil may have been an increased capa¬ 
bility of the bark surface to attract and retain ink particles. 

The polishing of the sheets mentioned by Alberuni also appears to have 
improved the suitability of the bark surface for writing. Yamauchi 2009, 27-28 
reports that lenticels are slightly dented on the outer surface of the birch bark 
and slightly raised on the inner surface, and since in Alberuni’s time birch-bark 
sheets were regularly inscribed on both sides, it would have been desirable to 
level the protruding ends of the lenticels. This leveling had less positive effect 
on embedded wooden tissue, and these areas remained difficult to write on (see 
section 4). Yet another possible treatment of the bark surface was suggested by 
the analysis of seventh-century birch-bark fragments from Bamiyan which found 
possible traces of yellow pigment (Yamauchi 2009, 4, 23, 36) although no rem¬ 
nants of coloring were visible on the bark. None of these methods of bark prepa¬ 
ration (oiling, polishing and coloring) should be uncritically projected back by 
more than five hundred years onto the early Gandharan scroll tradition, but they 
do suggest what to look for when physical analyses of the scrolls are carried out. 

According to Alberuni, the strips of bark harvested from the trees measured 
approximately 25 cm in width and 100 cm in height. Since removal of the inner bark 
interrupts the conveyance of water and nutrients inside the tree, the maximum 
width of the harvested strip (corresponding to approximately one quarter of the 
circumference of a full-grown birch tree) was probably at least partly determined 
by the need to keep the tree alive for future use. Another influence will have been 
the target width of the finished sheets, which in turn was conditioned by ease of 
use as well as the historical origin of the Gandharan scroll format (see section 6). 
The height of the harvested strip would appear to be the maximum that could 
be conveniently removed without the help of a ladder (since the very foot of the 
tree where the stem widens into the root system would not have yielded suitable 
bark). If the same procedure was followed in early Gandhara, then the sheets for 
the short-format scrolls were simply derived by cutting the harvested and pre¬ 
pared strip into three or four pieces. 

The construction of the long-format scrolls (called pustaka; Falk 1993, 305- 
306, Salomon 1999, 87) was considerably more complicated. The easiest way to 
form a scroll that is 250 cm (BL 1) or 500 cm (Dhp-G"^) high would seem to be 
the vertical joining of three, four or five of the harvested bark strips, and this 
is what Senart 1898, 199 and Hoernle 1900, 125-126 (the latter with reference 
to Alberuni’s description) suggested for scroll Dhp-G^ (the only Gandharan 
scroll known at the time) whose preserved sections happen to be ca. 118.8 cm. 


Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


193 


48.9 cm and 131.4 cm high. Kaye 1927,10, on the other hand, was familiar with the 
construction of Egyptian papyrus scrolls from individual sheets that are glued 
together (cf. section 6) and suggested a similar construction for scroll Dhp-G^, 
but could not see any positive evidence for this in Senart’s plates. Janert 1955/56, 
73 (referring to Hoernle but unaware of Kaye) reverted to the idea that harvested 
birch-bark strips were used in their full size, but goes even further and suggests 
that scrolls were made from one single piece of bark, which in view of the great 
height of the Khotan Dharmapada scroll was quite implausible. Brough 1962, 
18-19 does not address the question of component sheets in his brief remarks on 
scroll construction. 

The discovery of the twenty-eight Gandharan scrolls that are now preserved 
in the British Library (approximately half of which belong to the long-format type) 
finally provided new evidence to decide the question and prompted Salomon 
1999, 92-98 to reexamine scroll Dhp-G*^. As it turns out, all long-format scrolls 
now known, including scroll Dhp-G"^, are made from several sheets that are verti¬ 
cally attached to each other in the manner described below. The orientation of 
each sheet within the scroll is such that the lenticels are parallel to the upper 
and lower end of the scroll and perpendicular to its left and right margin, thus 
either following the orientation in which the bark was attached to the birch tree, 
turning it upside down or a combination of both possibilities. As a consequence, 
the direction in which the scroll is folded (from bottom to top) is perpendicular 
to the bark’s natural curvature around the tree trunk (left and right), and it is 
possible that this choice was made in order to ensure that the scroll would lie flat 
during use. 

In the five clear cases of long-format scrolls in this study, the heights of the 
component sheets range from an exceptionally short 13.1 cm through 17.5 cm up 
to 49 cm and thus correspond very closely to the range of heights of the short- 
format scrolls (17.2 cm to 44 cm). In contrast with this, the widths of the compo¬ 
nent sheets (and of the long-format scrolls that they build) range from 14 cm to 
21 cm and are thus considerably narrower than the widths of the short-format 
scrolls (ca. 20 cm to 27 cm; see Table 3). For production of the Khotan Dharma¬ 
pada scroll, the individual sheets were arranged in decreasing order of height 
from the top to the bottom of the scroll (looking at the recto), and the same may 
be true of scroll BL1 (Salomon 2009,86; Figure 3). In scroll BL12 + 14, on the other 
hand, the bottommost sheet is larger then the next sheet up (looking at the recto), 
and the two bottom sheets of scroll BL 13 are exactly equal in size. The same is 
true of the three bottom sheets of scroll BL 9, to the top of which is joined at least 
one shorter sheet. The sequences of equally-sized sheets in scrolls BL 9 and BL 13 
were probably produced either by folding the harvested strip over on itself or by 
superimposing roughly cut sheets, and then trimming them to the same size with 


194 


Stefan Baums 


BL9 BL 13 



□ 

RS 

n 

14 

nn 

RS 19 



BL 16-f25 



R‘ 

5 



Dhp-C^ BL 5B 


Fig- 3: Dimensions, construction and text layout often Gandharan scrolls. (Curved lines indicate 
the direction of overlap of sheets. Dotted lines mark reconstructed portions of scrolls. Dark grey 
shading is used for the original texts of scrolls, light grey for secondary texts added to them.) 






















































































Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


195 


a knife, as suggested by evidence from the long-format scroll LC. This scroll has 
two large square holes, about four millimeters in diameter, in the same relative 
position just above a join on its first and second preserved sheets. The text of the 
scroll avoids these holes (see section 4), showing that the damage was caused 
prior to inscribing. The corresponding positions of the holes make it most likely 
that they were caused by accidental piercing with a pointed object - maybe a 
knife - while they were superimposed for cutting to the same size. The surround¬ 
ing bark indicates that the object was twisted counterclockwise (looking at the 
recto) while penetrating the sheets. 

Tab. 3: Sheet sizes of five long-format Gandharan scrolls 



Width of sheets (cm) 

Heights of sheets (cm) 

BL9 

14 

19.8, 25.2, 25.2, 25 

BL13 

14 

27, 29 

BLl 

15.1 

49, 36, 30 

BL12 + 14 

ca. 15.5 

23.5, 27 

Dhp-G'< 

21 

ca. 45, 46.9 ... 23.5, 20.4, 20, 23.1, 17.5, 13.1 


All known long-format scrolls are incomplete, but the original heights of two of 
them (BL 1 and Dhp-G^) can be calculated with a fair degree of accuracy from 
their content, and the original number of sheets used in their construction can 
thus be estimated. Salomon 1999,96-97 presented an estimate for Dhp-G’^ on the 
basis of the schematic representation of the scroll in Brough 1962,11, not realizing 
that this drawing does not accurately represent the proportions of the scroll (see 
Figure 3), and that the heights of its two missing portions have been additionally 
reduced to fit the drawing onto the page. Assuming with Brough that the first gap 
in the preserved scroll (between fragments B and A) is somewhat larger than the 
second (between fragments A and C), and assuming with Salomon that the size of 
sheets decreased regularly from the top to the bottom of the scroll, an additional 
two sheets need to be reconstructed between Salomon’s sheets 3 and 4, and one 
additional sheet between sheets 5 and 6. The total number of sheets making up 
the scroll is thus likely to have been fifteen. A similar estimate can be made for 
scroll BL 1 on the assumption that the preserved portion of the scroll represents 
about one half of its original length (Salomon 2008, 84; but see note on Table 2 
and compare Figure 3). The complete scroll would then have been made from six 
sheets. 









Stefan Baums 


196 - 


As in Egyptian papyrus scrolls (see section 6), the sheets of Gandharan birch- 
bark scrolls are primarily joined to each other by an undetermined type of glue 
which is applied to the bottom two or three centimeters of one side of one sheet 
to paste it onto or under the top of the following sheet. Following papyrological 
practice (Porten 1979, 78), these areas of a scroll where one sheet is joined to the 
next will be referred to as joins. Sometimes excessive application of glue appears 
to have led to a crinkled surface in the finished scroll (Salomon 1999, 96). In the 
current condition of many Gandharan scrolls, the glue has lost its adhesive power 
and sheets have become separated (cf. Salomon 1999, 93 fig. 9). To avoid such 
separation during the anticipated lifetime of scrolls, their joins were often rein¬ 
forced with threads stitched across them. Three patterns of stitching have been 
observed so far: (1) In the scroll Dhp-G’^, two short vertical lines of stitches cross 
the join. These lines are between 1.7 cm and 3.5 cm long and between 3.5 and 
6.5 cm distant from the outer margins of the scroll (Salomon 1999, 96; Figure 4). 
In his first description of these join-reinforcing stitches, Salomon suggested they 
were peculiar to scroll Dhp-G’^ and that no reinforcements were used in the BL 
scrolls, but closer examination has since revealed join-reinforcing stitches in 
all four long-format scrolls described in this article as well as in other long-for¬ 
mat scrolls. (2) In scrolls BL 1, BL 9, BL 12 -i-14 and BL 13, a single line of stitches 
ca. 2.5 cm in length crosses each join in its horizontal center. Although the thread 
has disintegrated in these scrolls, the needle holes through which it passed are 
clearly visible on inspection (Allon 2001, pi. 6, Salomon 2008, 86). Only the joins 
between the first and second preserved sheets of BL 9 (fourth and fifth from the 
bottom) and BL 13 (second and third from the bottom) lack visible stitch marks, 
and it is possible that these two pairs of sheet were irregularly joined by glue only 
(Baums 2009,68). Together with the fact that the sheets below the unstitched joins 
in these scrolls are equally-sized, whereas the ones above are observably (BL 9) 
or potentially (BL 13) of different sizes (see above), this suggests that in these two 



Fig. 4: Margin threads and join-reinforcing threads in scroll Dhp-C^ (Senart 1898, pi. III). 





Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


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cases pre-existing scrolls of three and two sheets were secondarily extended by 
the addition of at least one more sheet at their top. (3) In the unpublished scroll 
BL 15, the join-reinforcing stitches take the form of a broad zig-zag pattern from 
the left to the right margin in which the individual lines of the zig-zag are ca. 2 cm 
long and meet each other at right angles (see, e.g., frame 30; Figure 5). In scroll 
LC, a narrower zig-zag pattern in which the lines meet each other at sixty-degree 
angles similarly follows the join.^*’ 



Fig. 5: Join-reinforcing thread (needle holes) in scroll BL15 (courtesy of The British Library 
Board). 


In some scrolls the overlapping of the individual sheets follows a single consistent 
pattern (Figure 3). Throughout the preserved portions of scrolls BL 9 and Dhp-G^, 
of any pair of sheets the one that is closer to the top of the scroll (looking at its 
recto) is glued and stitched onto the one that is closer to the bottom. This pattern 
appears to be reversed in scroll BL 12 + 14, where the three preserved sheets are 
joined so that of any pair the lower one (looking at the recto) lies on top of the 
higher one, and the same may be true of scroll BL 13 (even though it forms a set 
with scroll BL 9) where, however, the direction of overlap of the first and second 
sheets could not be determined with certainty. 

The long format is further characterized by threads stitched along the left 
and right margins, all the way from the top to the bottom of a scroll, at a distance 
of 0.5 to 1.0 cm from the edge of the bark. These threads are mostly preserved in 
scroll Dhp-G^^ (Figure 4). In the long-format BL scrolls they have disintegrated 
except for small remnants, but needle holes attest to their presence where the 
margin itself is preserved. Most likely the purpose of these margin threads was to 
increase the vertical cohesion of the scroll (Salomon 1999, 94). Frequent folding 
of a scroll would result in horizontal cracks and eventually in the separation of 


16 The rightmost part of one of the joins of scroll BC 2 has been additionally reinforced by a patch 
of birch bark glued over its verso (Strauch 2008,107), but this isolated case is best regarded as an 
improvised repair of a specific problem, not as an additional type of join reinforcement. 





198 


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the bark into horizontal strips. The margin threads would slow down this process 
by preventing vertical overextension of the scroll, and if the bark did separate 
along a horizontal crack the threads would still provide a minimal amount of ver¬ 
tical cohesion and prevent the scroll from splitting altogether. One negative con¬ 
sequence of sewing threads dovm the margins was the resulting perforation that 
led to a tendency for the left and right edges of scrolls to break off. The benefit of 
increased vertical cohesion appears to have outweighed the drawback of weak¬ 
ened margins during the lifetime of the scrolls, but in the centuries since their 
disposal some scrolls (notably the BL scrolls) have suffered a complete disinte¬ 
gration of their margin threads, followed by a destruction of their edges along the 
exposed perforation. While characteristic of the long format, margin stitching in 
some rare cases also occurs in short-format scrolls. The only clear examples are 
scroll BL 5B, the exceptionally long short-format scroll RS 12 and probably also 
scroll BL 16 -i- 25 (see section 4 below). The unique scroll BL 3A has strips of what 
appears to be coarse birch bark, approximately 1.5 cm in vddth, pasted dovm the 
recto and verso of the preserved left margin and taking the place of margin stitch¬ 
ing (not noted by the editor, but clearly visible in Lenz 2003, fig. 18-19 and Lenz 
2010, pi. 22-25). It is uncertain whether this scroll belongs to the long or short 
format. 

There is no evidence that a roller (such as a cylindrical piece of wood) was 
attached to the bottom of any of the long-format scrolls. Brough 1962, 12 sug¬ 
gested that “a manuscript of birch-bark would suffer less in being used if it were 
rolled than it would if folded” and that “[i]f a roll was the original intention, it 
must be assumed that it was wound round a cylinder, possibly of wood, since 
the end of [fragment] N, which would have been the innermost part, shows no 
signs of the tight folding which is characteristic of most paper strips which have 
been rolled without a centre-piece.” In fact, however, the bottom of scroll Dhp-G^ 
shows exactly the kind of damage that would be caused by folding without a 
roller and that occurs frequently among the BL scrolls: a piece corresponding to 
two strips of the folded-up scroll has broken off along horizontal cracks, leaving 
a gap one strip from the very end of the scroll. Observing this, Salomon 1999,101 
still attempted to use it as an argument in favor of the original presence of a roller 
since “[tjhis damage could have been inflicted when the scroll was separated 
from such a rolling cylinder to which it had been pasted or otherwise attached.” 
The detached fragments are, however, preserved and can be inspected on plates 
IV and XVIII of Brough 1962, where their recto is empty and their verso carries 
the partial lines numbered 367-370. The surface of the recto does not show any 
irregularity or damage that might have been caused by attachment to a roller, but 
the left-hand portion does display the kind of horizontal crack that is indicative 
of tight folding and that, one strip up and down, did lead to the detachment of 


Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


199 


these fragments. The other piece of evidence that Salomon adduced in favor of 
the use of rollers are tvyo small holes near the bottom of scroll BL 12 +14. But in 
the description of Allon 2001, 44, “[t]he hole on the left side of the recto is about 
2.5 cm from the original bottom margin of the manuscript, and the hole on the 
right is about 1.4 cm from the bottom,” vyhereas one vyould expect them to be at 
the same height if they vyere caused by pins attaching the bottom of the scroll to a 
roller. Allon continues to remark that if they were caused by such pins, then “the 
bark would have been pinned onto the roller from the verso side, which formed 
the original outside of the scroll.” This would have subverted the purpose of a 
roller since the scroll, rolled up with its recto facing the inside (see section 5), 
could then only have gone around the roller after a very sharp crease at the point 
of attachment which would have led to the speedy separation of the roller itself. 
The available evidence thus indicates that no rollers were attached to the bottoms 
of Gandharan scrolls. 


4 Inscribing 

The principal writing utensils available in Gandhara and suitable for birch bark 
were pens (made from reeds or similar material) and brushes (Biihler 1896, 92, 
Janert 1955/56, 87, Sander 1968,35-36). Many Gandharan manuscripts show signs 
of having been written with a hollow pen whose nib was split to conduct ink from 
the inside to the tip and angled to accommodate the handedness of the scribe: 
split letter strokes where the ink ran low and varying widths of strokes depend¬ 
ing on their direction (Glass 2000, 28-30). The use of pens in Gandhara is further 
indicated by two replica copper pens found at Taxila (Marshall 1951, II598). It is 
safe to assume that pens were the regular writing utensil, but the occasional use 
of brushes cannot be ruled out. 

The ink used for Gandharan manuscripts is black and presumably soot-based 
(notwithstanding Kalidasa’s poetic dhdtumsa; section 3). Janert 1955/56, 87-96 
lists various ink recipes used in ancient and medieval India and summarizes the 
report of Biihler 1877,30 according to which the ink used for later Kashmiri birch- 
bark manuscripts was made from burnt almonds boiled in cow urine, which in 
combination with birch bark produced waterproof writing. The recipe of early 
Gandharan ink will remain unknown until a detailed analysis is carried out on a 
sample of the material. Concerning the water resistance of the later Kashmiri ink, 
we observe that there are no clear cases of ink erasure due to water damage in the 
early Gandharan manuscript material, with the possible exception of scroll BC13, 
one side of which contains an area of faded writing that by its shape suggests the 


200 


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spread of a liquid. A scribal method of erasing an erroneous aksara consists in 
smudging it out (Glass 2000,148), but since this type of erasure would be carried 
out before the ink was dry it cannot be taken as a sign of water-soluble ink. The 
only known palimpsests among Gandharan manuscripts are written on palm 
leaf, and in these cases the application of another solvent than water cannot be 
ruled out. 

In the act of writing, scribes avoided uneven areas of the scroll, especially 
embedded wooden tissue (cf. Salomon 2008, pi. 17), join-reinforcing threads and 
the edges where sheets overlap with each other.The usual procedure for rough 
spots in the bark is quite simply to skip them, but occasionally (e.g., on the recto 
of scroll LC) they are marked with horizontal lines to show they have been left 
empty on purpose. In some manuscripts, particularly the BC scrolls, the verso 
of the scroll (corresponding to the inner side of the birch tree’s periderm) has a 
much coarser texture than the recto, but this did not in and of itself prevent its 
use for writing. 

In most long-format and some short-format scrolls, the horizontal delimi¬ 
tation of the text area was provided by the threads running down the left and 
right margins. Two of the BC scrolls (long-format BC 3 and short-format BC 5) do 
not feature margin threads, but have ink lines drawn down the margins where a 
thread would have run, illustrating how margin threads had come to be perceived 
as an integral part of text layout (Strauch 2008, 107).^® The sculpture shown in 
Figure 6 goes to the length of reproducing the margin threads or correspond¬ 
ing ink lines of two scrolls in stone, further illustrating their importance for the 
Gandharan scroll format. Vertically, the text area can in principle extend all the 
way to the bottom of the writing surface, but it may stop a little short if the end 
of a textual subdivision occurs just before the bottom of the scroll (e.g., in long- 
format BL 1, BL 12 +14 and Dhp-G'^ and short-format BL SB). The very top of a 
scroll is often left empty (for instance in long-format Dhp-G^ and short-format BC 
8), presumably to protect the inscribed part when the scroll was folded up. Within 


17 Salomon 1999, 96 uses the scribal avoidance of join-reinforcing threads and sheet edges to 
argue against Brough 1962,13 that the entire length of a long-format scroll was ready-made be¬ 
fore a scribe commenced his work, and that the scribe either commissioned a complete scroll of 
the size he thought appropriate or chose from a variety of differently-sized ready-made scrolls. 
While the careful and regular construction of most scrolls does suggest professional manufacture 
on a large scale, the features of some scrolls, such as the lack of reinforcing threads and smaller 
sheets in the upper part of scrolls BL 9 and BL 13 and the changing direction of sheet overlap in 
scroll BL 1, still indicate a certain element of improvisation in their manufacture, whether by a 
specialized scroll maker or by a scribe. 

18 The same type of development occurred in Central Asian paper manuscripts where painted 
circles took the place of string holes in earlier palm-leaf manuscripts. 



Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


201 


the text area, the scribe fills lines from right to left (the writing direction of the 
Kharosthi script) proceeding from the top of the recto to the bottom. If he wishes 
to continue his text on the verso of the scroll, he flips the scroll over vertically and 
begins to fill the verso from the same end (the innermost part of the folded-up 
scroll), proceeding from there back towards that end from which he started to 
fill the recto (the outermost part of the folded-up scroll). In one case (scroll BC 
16), the scribe reached the end of the verso before he had completed his text, and 
proceeded to add two more lines in the right margin (with the feet of letters point¬ 
ing towards the right edge of the scroll) and one more line in the top margin (with 
the feet pointing towards the top edge); the intended reading order of these three 



Fig- 6: Three monks with scrolls (Taddel 1983, pi. Mb). 


202 


Stefan Baums 


lines has not yet been determined, and it cannot be ruled out that more text was 
added to the lost left margin of the verso. In general, the horizontal orientation 
of lines is maintained quite accurately, but some of the more cursive hands (e.g., 
BL scribe 2 and the RS scribe) introduce a downward slant from the beginning 
(right side) to the end (left side) of the line. This slant is particularly distinct in 
short-format scrolls, presumably because they could be more easily rotated under 
writing than long-format scrolls. 

In most Gandharan scrolls, the text block is structured by punctuation 
marks and word spacing. The former typically occur at two different levels, with 
small dots indicating lower-level phrase units and larger circular designs indi¬ 
cating paragraph- or chapter-level divisions. Some scrolls (BL 9, BL 13, BL 28) 
additionally mark the end of a paragraph or chapter by placing a similar design 
in the right-hand margin of the manuscript between the margin thread and 
the edge of the surface (Baums 2009, 70, 105-106). For the same purpose, the 
Dhp-G’^ scribe placed a horizontal line of abstract geometric shapes under the 
end of each chapter, starting from the right edge of the text block or in the right 
margin, and extending between one quarter and one half of the width of the text 
block leftwards (cf. Brough 1962, pi. XV). Word spacing is used especially with 
verse texts, which are typically laid out so that the four quarters of a stanza fill 
one line and are separated by spaces (Falk 1993, 316-317; cf. Brough 1962, pi. I). 
Stanzas in verse texts and paragraphs in prose texts can also be numbered, with 
the number sign following the unit in question. The Dhp-G^ scribe instead noted 
the number of verses in each chapter at its end (after the final punctuation mark 
or to the left of the horizontal line of abstract shapes). The very end of a text is 
sometimes marked with the lifelike drawing of a flower or a stupa. In one special 
case (Figure 7), the flower occurs at the bottom of the recto of a scroll (BL 13), but 
the text actually continues on the verso with two more paragraphs. It is possible 



Fig. 7: End-of-text mark in scroll BL 13 (Baums 2009, pi. 21). 



Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


203 


that the part on the verso represents a secondary extension of this text, consist¬ 
ing of a loosely joined sequence of explanations of a selection of Buddhist verses. 

Where the end of a text is preserved it does not usually carry any additional 
information, such as a text title or the name of a scribe or owner. The ‘Split’ Col¬ 
lection does, however, include one scroll (SC 5) that preserves parts of two chap¬ 
ters from a Pmjndpdmmitd and a detached fragment that appears to be from the 
bottom of a sheet and contains the following two lines (Falk 2011,23, pi. 8): 

padhamage postage pranaparamidae budhamitra /// 

idrasavasa sadhaviharisa imena ca kusalamulena sarvasatvana matrapitra /// 

The first line specifies the content of this scroll as “the first book of the 
Pmjndpdmmitd of Budhamitra,” referring either to the scribe or to the owner of 
the manuscript. After a stretch of lost text, the second line continues “dwelling 
together with Idrasrava” - probably a further specification of Budhamitra - and 
adds “by this root of good, for all beings, for mother and father” before breaking 
off. 

This note on the Pmjndpdmmitd manuscript sheds light on the interpretation 
of another fragment of birch bark in the British Library collection (BL 3B) that 
appears to belong to the end of a text written by the same scribe as scrolls BL 7, 
BL 9, BL 13 and BL 18 (Salomon 1999, 40-42, Baums 2009, 609-611). The lines in 
question, which occur just above a partially preserved join and skip over a cen¬ 
tered join-reinforcing thread, read as follows: 

+ + [t]. a i di navodasa * 

+ + + + [ge] postag (*e) gasaje] pacavisadi 20 41 saghasravasa samanasa 

The first line ends with the number word ‘nineteen’ which probably refers either 
to the content or to the size of the preceding last chapter of the text. The second 
line appears to contain information about the text as a whole. It starts with an 
expression in the locative case containing the word ‘book’ modified by a lost attri¬ 
bute - probably a numeral as on scroll SC 5. The word gasae ‘verses’ is a feminine 
nominative plural and thus probably constitutes the subject of the statement, fol¬ 
lowed by the number word ‘twenty-five’ (repeated in number signs) that appears 
to be its attribute. This leaves an ambiguous reference to the monk Saghasrava in 
the genitive singular; it could mark him as the composer of the verses or the com¬ 
mentary on them or, more likely, as the scribe or owner of the manuscript. The 
term ‘colophon’ has been used for the text-final statements on these fragments. 
They probably occupied the typical position of a colophon at the end of a text, 
and at least the text-final statement of the Pmjndpdmmitd appears to share with 


204 


Stefan Baums 


the later and more elaborate Gilgit colophons a reference to the beneficiaries of 
the merit that accrues from the production of the manuscript (von Hiniiber 1980, 
50). 

The information on scroll fragment BL 3B is similar to that in the introductory 
line (possibly a verse) of scroll Dhp-G’^; 

budhavarmasa samanasa budhanadisardhavayarisa ida dharmapadasa postaka dharma- 

sravena likhida arani 

Brough (1962, xx-xxii, 119,177 (followed by Salomon 1999,40-42)) read the third 
word from the end as dharmuyane and took it as a reference to the place where 
the manuscript was copied, but the reproduction of this passage on his plate I 
rather supports my interpretation as a personal name formed on the same pattern 
as Idrasava in scroll SC 5 and Saghasrava in scroll fragment BL 3B. The Dhp-G^ 
line can then be unambiguously translated as: “This is the Dharmapada book of 
the monk Budhavarma, dwelling together with Budhanadi; it has been written 
by Dharmasrava in the monastery.” In contrast to SC 5 and BL 3B, Dhp-G^ thus 
clearly distinguishes between owner and scribe. The Dharmapada introductory 
verse differs from BL 3B in not providing a number of text units, a service that in 
general always follows the text or part of a text in question. 

Neither the text-final statement on scroll fragment BL 3B nor the introductory 
statement on scroll Dhp-G’^ occupy a position that would have allowed them to 
identify the content of the manuscript when it was folded up. Unless external 
means were used to identify folded-up scrolls (such as tags or containers vdth 
labels), the information would have to be provided on the only part of a scroll’s 
surface that is visible in its folded-up state: the very end of the verso (on the other 
side of the same sheet as the beginning of the recto). Unfortunately, this part is 
only preserved in scroll Dhp-G^, and no photographs have ever been published of 
the relevant portion of the manuscript (the verso of fragment 0). Until this desid¬ 
eratum is filled and the end of the verso of Dhp-G’^ is examined for the possible 
presence of a line specifying the content of the scroll, we have at least one piece 
of circumstantial evidence in the address line of the private letter on scroll BC 15 
(Strauch 2008,127). The strip of bark bearing this address has become detached 
from the rest of the scroll, but the empty vertical space preceding and following 
the address shows that it was not directly adjacent to the body of the letter, and 
the surface structure and width of the strip suggest that its position was indeed at 
the very end of the verso so that it would have been visible on the outside of the 


Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


205 


folded-up (and possibly sealed) letterd® This makes it likely that if the identifica¬ 
tion of a folded-up literary scroll was provided on the manuscript itself, then it 
would also have occurred at the very end of the verso. 

Almost always, a single scribe was responsible for the writing of a text, but 
one exception exists in scroll LC which contains a single text, but where the recto 
was written by one scribe and the verso by another.^” When a significant amount 
of free space remained on a scroll, either because it was only inscribed on the 
recto or because its text did not extend all the way to the bottom of the verso, a sec¬ 
ondary text was sometimes added at a later point by a different scribe (Figure 3). 
Among the ten scrolls studied in this article, two different types of text combina¬ 
tion can be observed. The first is represented by scroll BL 13, where what appears 
to be the final part of a multi-volume commentarial text occupies all of the recto 
and in its present form (see above) extends 24 cm down the verso. It is followed 
by a similar but distinct commentarial text that is written by another scribe. Here 
the intention was clearly to write a sequel to the text that already existed on the 
scroll. The second pattern is represented by scrolls BL 1, BL 12 +14 and BL 16 -i- 25. 
In each of these, a Buddhist canonical text (two verse texts and one set of stitras) 
is followed by a string of narrative sketches written in a very casual style by 
two different scribes. It has not been possible to determine any relationship of 
content between the primary texts of these scrolls and the narrative sketches, 
and here the unused writing surface appears to have been repurposed for a new 
task without reference to the text that the scroll already contained. In each of the 
cases of reuse discussed so far, representing the habits of three different scribes, 
the secondary text follows the primary text immediately, without any vertical 
space and sometimes even finishing the last line of the primary text. A different 
procedure can be observed in scroll BC 1, where a collection of canonical stitras 
was evidently meant to occupy just the recto of the scroll, but where due to lack 
of space the very last line of the text had to be written at the top of the verso. A 
secondary magical text was then added to the verso of the manuscript, but in this 
case only after a long vertical gap that apparently corresponds to one sheet of the 
scroll (i.e., the secondary text appears to start on the second sheet of the verso). 
Yet another arrangement occurs in scroll BC 9, where a scholastic text is added 
on the verso of a scroll whose entire recto is occupied by a treatise on statecraft. 


19 The surface structure of the strip containing the address line indicates that it was written on 
the verso of the scroll, and the width of the strip places it at the very end of the preserved part of 
the verso (Ingo Strauch, personal communication). 

20 This situation is comparable to the larger-scale collaboration of scribes on the Gilgit 
Dlrghdgama manuscript described in Melzer 2007, 68-77. 



206 


Stefan Baums 


Summarizing these observations and surveying the known corpus of Gandharan 

scrolls, the following patterns of scribal practice emerge: 

1. Short texts such as letters (BC 15) and some stotras (BC 8 and BC 10) only 
required one side of a short-format scroll to write dovm. 

2. Prestige literature such as Buddhist canonical texts (BL1 and BL12 + 14), but 
also the non-Buddhist treatise on statecraft (BC 9), tended to be vnritten only 
on the recto of both short-format and long-format scrolls. Where the length of 
such a text exceeded the available space, it could in principle be continued 
on the rectos of further scrolls. No absolutely clear cases of such continuation 
scrolls for prestige literature have yet been found, and it is possible that the 
primary mode of transmission for this type of literature remained oral and 
that the available manuscripts of complete texts or the beginnings of texts 
served special purposes. On the other hand, BL 16 + 25 does appear to be a 
continuation scroll, and BL 1 (see note on Table 2) may be another example. 
An exception to the pattern is the work of the scribe of the Senior collection of 
manuscripts, who produced both single- and double-sided scrolls of extracts 
from canonical literature. Another exception is scroll Dhp-G'^ which probably 
contained the entire text of the Dharmapada using both the recto and almost 
half of the verso. Both of these exceptions date from the 2"'^ century CE (the 
Senior scrolls certainly, scroll Dhp-G"^ probably) and are thus approximately 
one hundred years younger than the other known manuscripts of canoni¬ 
cal texts. It is possible, but remains speculative, that they represent further 
developments in two different directions; a greater reliance on written trans¬ 
mission on one hand, and an increased emphasis on ritual uses of manu¬ 
scripts on the other. 

3. New literature including commentaries on canonical texts (BL 9, BL 13 and 
BL 18), other scholastic treatises (BL 28), Mahayana stitras (BC 2) and stotras 
(BL 5B), as well as casual texts such as story sketches (BL 2), could be written 
on both sides of a scroll where needed and were demonstrably continued on 
further scrolls when both sides of the initial scroll were filled (BL 9, BL 13 and 
BL 18). 

4. In addition, some forms of new literature (the scholastic treatise on BC 9) and 
casual texts (the story sketches of the British Library Collection) would reuse 
empty space on other manuscripts, and at least in the latter case without 
reference to the original content of the scroll. One related property shared by 
some new literature (BL 13) and casual texts (BL 4) is that a scribe could add 
additional material to another scribe’s text (which is a different practice from 
that in scroll LC, where a single preexisting text was divided between two 
scribes to share labor or merit). 


Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


207 


While the tendency for canonical texts to occur in partial manuscripts (especially 
the beginnings of texts) indicates the continuation of a strong oral transmission, 
the commentarial and scholastic literature shows clear signs of written transmis¬ 
sion in addition to oral features. The commentary in scrolls BL 7, BL 9, BL 13 and 
BL18, for instance, contains misspellings based on the shape of Kharosthi letters 
(such as the gotra name pamcariya <- *pamyaria for *pamsaria, and the techni¬ 
cal term drithisari for *drithiyan; Baums 2009,150, 326) besides representations 
of dialect features (such as tida instead of Gandhari thida) that suggest that both 
a written source and reading aloud or recitation played a role in the production 
of the manuscript. The Sangitisutra commentary in scroll BL 15 contains another 
clear example of written transmission in the section on the six vivadamula, where 
part of the text has been omitted because the eye of a copyist or somebody reading 
aloud skipped from the word drithi in one line of a source manuscript to the same 
word in the next line. 

A feature of the casual story sketches may also indicate the production of one 
manuscript on the basis of another. Nine places on five different scrolls where 
these sketches occur have interlinear notes stating likhidago ‘it has been written,’ 
likhidage aca avadane ‘this avadana has been written’ or variants thereof. In his 
detailed discussion of these notes, Salomon 1999, 71-76 observed that they were 
in another hand than the story sketches themselves, and he suggested that they 
either represent the certification of a supervisor that the manuscript had been 
produced correctly, or - more likely in view of the casual nature of the text - that 
another scribe who had made copies from the manuscripts we have noted this fact 
in his exemplars. Lenz 2003,108-110 argued for a variant of Salomon’s rejected 
hypothesis in which the notations were added not by a supervisor of manuscript 
production, but by a teacher in a classroom setting to confirm that his students 
had written down their story sketches correctly. Revisiting the issue, Lenz 2010, 
21-22 suggests instead that the notations may well have been written by the same 
scribe as the story sketches themselves, but did not provide a reason why the 
scribe should have annotated his own text in this way. Provisionally accepting 
Lenz’s suggestion, Mark Allon proposes in personal communication one possible 
explanation that attractively links the likhidago notes with the frequent injunc¬ 
tion vistare yasayupamano siyadi ‘it shall be expanded according to model’ at 
the end of individual sketches (Lenz 2003, 85-91) and which also explains their 
extreme succinctness and casual style: the story sketches may be neither class¬ 
room exercises nor the memory aids of a storyteller, but rather instructions for 
the production of another manuscript in which the stories are told in full, and 
the author of the sketches would have noted the completion of the full stories by 
himself or by another scribe on his instruction sheet. While much unclarity thus 
remains about the purpose of the likhidago notation, two of these three explana- 


208 


Stefan Baums 


tions (by Salomon and Allon) involve hypotheses about manuscript production 
in early Gandhara that could be confirmed by newt manuscript discoveries (either 
of a direct copy of one of the sketches, or of a collection of full stories based on 
the sketches). 


5 Use and disposal 

Beyond the scrolls themselves and the little that is knovm about their archeologi¬ 
cal context, the only evidence for howf they wrere used is provided by depictions in 
Gandharan art (collected in Salomon 1999,103-104). The one most relevant for the 
monastic context of our scrolls is a relief described by Taddei 1983, 338, showing 
three monks seated around a table with open scrolls in their hands (Figure 6). 
One of the monks joins the fingers of his right hand in a gesture that, as Taddei 
suggests, may indicate that a debate (presumably about the content of the scrolls) 



Fig- 8: Mustachioed man with scroii (Rahman 1993, pi. XLIa) 










Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


209 


is underway. Another relief, from Shnaisha Gumbat in Swat (Rahman 1993, 95), 
shows a mustachioed man seated under a tree, holding an open scroll in both 
hands from which he reads while two young men listen attentively (Figure 8). 
Rahman interprets the scene as “a government functionary reading out instruc¬ 
tions,” and while one may disagree with the specifics, here we do seem to witness 
the use of a Gandharan scroll outside the monastic context. A third depiction 
of scroll use is found on another relief from Swat that is now kept in the British 
Museum (Tissot 1985,109, Kurita 1988-90, II fig. 859, Zwalf 1996,1232). It shows a 
seated man with partially shaved head or close-fitting cap, holding an open scroll 
in his left hand while looking up at a stooping woman approaching him with a 
box-shaped object in her arms (Figure 9). This scene has received a wide range 
of differing interpretations - a poet and his muse (imitating Greek models), the 
schooling of the Bodhisattva or a scene from the Mahdummaggajataka involving 
a young minister and a handmaiden - and pending new evidence it seems wisest 
not to draw conclusions from any of these possibilities. Considering the ambigu¬ 
ous hairstyle of the man holding the scroll, both a monastic and a non-monastic 
context seem possible. 

Returning to our documents, we first observe that a large number of horizon¬ 
tal creases occurs in the bark of both short-format and long-format scrolls, and 
that often these creases have led to breaks separating the bark into horizontal 
strips. The distance between creases, and thus the height of strips into which 
the bark has broken, increases regularly from the bottom of a scroll to the top. In 
the long-format scroll BL 9, for instance, the next-to-bottommost strip is 1.7 cm 
high, whereas the next-to-topmost preserved strip measures 4.2 cm in height. 
This indicates that the scrolls were folded up from the bottom to the top, and 
was confirmed during the opening of the scrolls in modern times. Textual study 
combined with the observation of their opening showed that the scrolls were 
folded up so that the recto faced the inside, a procedure that offered the best 
protection for the textual content on the recto and the upper part of the verso. 
This puts to rest various earlier theories about the Khotan Dharmapada scroll, in 
particular the idea that it was folded up concertina-style, whose proponents mis¬ 
takenly considered a scroll with roller (not used in Gandhara; section 3) the only 
probable type.^^ In one case (scroll BL 13), a horizontal crack caused by the par- 


21 One apparent exception (scroll BL 21) was found folded up with its recto facing the outside, 
but this seems to be a case of casually folding a worn-out scroll for disposal (Salomon 1999, 
50-51). 

22 “Une fois ecrits, [les feuillets] etaient replies sur eux-memes de fagon a se presenter sous 
I’aspect de cahiers de 20 centimetres de long sur un hauteur de 4 centimetres et demi a 5 cen¬ 
timetres” (Senart 1898,199); “[mjost probably it was never intended that the manuscript should 



210 


Stefan Baums 



Fig- 9: Man with scroll and woman (Tissot 1985, fig. 257). 

ticularly tight folding at the bottom of the scroll was repaired using three small 
strips of differently-colored birch bark (measuring 0.2 x 0.5 cm, 0.2 x 0.6 cm and 
0.2 X 0.6 cm respectively) that have been glued over the crack in the same way that 
we would use adhesive tape (Figure 7). 

Once they were vertically folded into a tight, flat package, the short-format 
scrolls were additionally folded in half horizontally. In some cases (e.g., scrolls 
BC 8 and RS 24) this fold could be observed directly when the scrolls were found 
(Khan/Khan 2004,12, Lenz 2003,4; Figure 10), and in their current open arrange¬ 
ment it can take the form of a vertical crease (less crisp than the horizontal ones) 
running down the middle of the scroll or of an outright break caused during 
modern opening. In other cases, the material along this crease had disintegrated 
completely before the scrolls were deposited or in the centuries until their redis¬ 
covery. It is not immediately apparent why the short-format scrolls would be sub¬ 
jected to this additional folding since it does not make them significantly easier 
to store or deposit and subjects the material to additional stress. I note for now 
that the only known non-literary scroll (the letter BC 15) also appears to have been 


be rolled up; possibly it was to be hung on a wall” (Kaye 1927,10); “[t]he present appearance of 
some of the parts suggests that it was of the concertina-type, though it is possible that it was 
originally intended to he a roll” (Brough 1962,12). 






Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


211 


folded in this way since a noticeable crease runs down the middle of the sheet 
and the outermost strip has broken in half, and will discuss this question further 
in section 6. In contrast, none of the long-format scrolls in our sample have been 
folded horizontally, presumably because the greater height of these scrolls and 
consequently the greater thickness of the vertically folded-up package made an 
additional horizontal folding difficult or impossible (cf. Salomon 1999, pi. 6). 



Fig. 10: Short-format Gandharan scroll, folded up (Khan/Khan 2004, fig. 5). 


Two of the short-format scrolls in the Bajaur collection (the letter BC 15 and the 
stotra BC 10) have a hole, two or three millimeters in diameter, near the middle of 
the right half of each bark strip. When these scrolls were folded up vertically the 
holes would line up, and it therefore seems likely that they were caused by pierc¬ 
ing the scroll while it was folded-up vertically but not folded in half horizontally. 
In the case of the letter, a string bearing a seal could have passed through it (Ingo 
Strauch, personal communication), but it is not clear why the stotra scroll should 
have received the same treatment. 

The users of Gandharan scrolls would sometimes annotate the text of their 
scrolls, but a meaningful discussion of this phenomenon will have to wait until 
more texts have been edited and until palaeographic study makes it easier to dis¬ 
tinguish the hand of a user of a manuscript from that of its scribe. The reader 
is referred to the discussion of the likhidago annotations in section 4 and will 
note that even in this well-documented case the identity of the annotator remains 


212 


Stefan Baums 


uncertain. A possible customization of a manuscript by its user, but just as likely 
a feature provided by the scribe, are the margin marks indicating subsections of 
a text (also discussed in section 4). 

The information available about the day-to-day use of Gandharan birch-bark 
scrolls is thus rather limited, and so is our knowtledge about the details of and 
motivations behind the disposals that preserved some of these scrolls for posterity 
(section 2). Because none of the manuscript discoveries were made in the course 
of archeological excavation, information about their disposal is only available for 
three collections; the BL collection, the RS collection and the BC collection. In his 
discussion of the first of these, Salomon 1999,69-86 suggested that the deposit of 
the BL scrolls is parallel to the Jewish custom of depositing worn-out manuscripts 
(rather than destroying them) out of respect for their religious status. His argu¬ 
ment was based on the observation that many of the BL scrolls appear to have 
been damaged and incomplete before their deposit. It is difficult to estimate how 
much of the disintegration of birch bark is due to handling in antiquity rather 
than environmental circumstances in the centuries that passed, but their used 
status is borne out by the fact that one of them (BL 21) was casually folded up 
inside out, and that in two cases (BL 3 and BL 5) parts of several unrelated scrolls 
were folded up together. When the RS collection was discovered, it soon became 
apparent that it differs from the BL collection in three important respects: all of 
its manuscripts are written by the same scribe; they are in an excellent state of 
preservation and were possibly unused when deposited; and they were discov¬ 
ered inside a pot with an inscription that in all respects (short of using a word for 
‘relic’) conforms to the usual formula for relic establishments (Salomon 2003). On 
the basis of these facts, Salomon 2009 argues that the scrolls of the RS collection 
were custom-made for the purpose of ritual installation as dharma relic, and that 
such an installation was successfully carried out, while maintaining and refining 
his position that the BL collection represents a ritual burial of worn-out texts. He 
supports his argument with new archeological data reported in Tarzi 2005 for 
Buddhist monastic sites around Hadda in Afghanistan. These finds revealed two 
relevant patterns of use for clay pots such as the ones that contained the BL and 
RS scrolls: on one hand, they were used as funerary urns and buried outside the 
western and southern walls of a monastery; on the other, they were used as outer 
containers for reliquaries and placed within small stone chambers in stupas. 

While in the light of all available evidence, it does seem likely that the Senior 
scrolls constitute a dharma-relic deposit, whether or not they saw prior use, the 
case is less clear for the BL scrolls. Their container does not carry any reference 
to the purpose of the deposit, and the fact that similar containers were used for 
human burials at Hadda does not necessarily mean that the disposal of these 
worn-out scrolls was also conceptualized as a burial. We will be right in regard- 


Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


213 


ing it as a respectful disposal, whether intended to be permanent or temporary, 
but lack the data to deduce much beyond this main fact.^^ Coming to the third 
major deposit of Gandharan scrolls, the Bajaur collection, we cannot even be sure 
whether these manuscripts were in fact deposited in a formal sense. They were 
reported to have been found in a small stone chamber or box resembling the one 
that at Hadda contained a clay pot with reliquary, and on this basis Salomon 
2009,28-29 suggested that they like the RS scrolls might represent dharma relics. 
On the other hand, no pot or other object related to relic establishments were 
reported in connection with the Bajaur material; in contrast to the RS collection it 
contains a variety of textual genres on scrolls that do show signs of handling and 
use; and in contrast to both the BL and the RS collection, the Bajaur collection 
contains one clearly non-Buddhist text (the letter BC 15).^'* While we cannot rule 
out that this one unrelated text slipped into a dharma-relic establishment by acci¬ 
dent, the overall picture remains as inconclusive as with the BL collection, and 
we cannot rule out either that the Bajaur collection was simply part of a monastic 
library, either in its regular place of storage or hidden away, that was left behind 
when the monastery was abandoned (Strauch 2008,104-105).^^ 


6 Origin and survival 

Discussions of the origin of the Gandharan scroll format (most recently Jager 2006, 
189) have been almost entirely restricted to comparisons with Greek and Chinese 
scrolls, but the connection of either of these two traditions with Gandhara faces 
serious historical problems. While we have direct documentary evidence for a 
flourishing use of Gandharan scrolls in the 1®* century CE and possibly also in 
the century BCE, the existence of two Gandharan sites with Asokan inscrip- 


23 A cautionary tale is presented by the private letters from Hermopolis discussed below: they 
were found in a sealed jar in a necropolis for the ibis bird, among thousands of other jars con¬ 
taining ibis mummies, and no rationale for this kind of disposal of secular and ephemeral docu¬ 
ments is apparent (Kraeling 1953,18, Bresciani/Kamil 1966, Fitzmyer 1981, 29). 

24 The treatise on statecraft (BC 9) is also not a Buddhist text, but in this case the secondary text 
on the scroll - a Buddhist scholastic treatise - would have warranted its inclusion in a dharma- 
relic deposit. 

25 In principle, other types of ritual deposit than burial and relic establishment also need to be 
taken into consideration, as illustrated by a recent discovery in Bamiyan. In the course of con¬ 
servation work on the remains of the eastern giant Buddha statue, twenty small manuscript frag¬ 
ments were found that had been deposited in a metal container inside the statue. They contain 
part of the pratltyasamutpdda formula and provide first evidence from South Asia for the custom 
of depositing manuscripts in statues (Matsuda 2009, 8). 



214 


Stefan Baums 


tions using the local script Kharosthi - whereas Asoka’s inscriptions in the rest of 
South Asia use Brahmi (von Hiniiber 1990,55) - indicates that a local Gandharan 
manuscript tradition existed already in the middle of the 3'^'* century BCE. At this 
point in time, Greek colonies had been established in Bactria, but another century 
would pass before Gandhara was fully incorporated into the Greek sphere of 
influence, and direct contacts between Gandhara and China are even less likely 
at this early date. 

Also in terms of format, Greek and Chinese scrolls differ markedly from the 
two Gandharan formats in that they are written and read in horizontal orienta¬ 
tion, with vertical lines progressing from right to left in the Chinese case and hori¬ 
zontal lines arranged in columns in the Greek case. If either of them had served 
as model for the Gandharan scrolls, it would be hard to explain why the latter 
should have undergone such a radical change in format. Previous discussions 
of Gandharan scrolls and their origin also suffered from an excessive focus on 
the long-format type. This was initially due to the fact that scroll Dhp-G'^ was the 
only available specimen, but even after the discovery of the BL collection, the 
impression that the long format was more widely used and characteristic for the 
tradition persisted (Salomon 1999, 98). The picture changed radically with the 
RS collection which consists almost entirely of short-format scrolls, and vdth the 
Bajaur collection which consists in equal parts of short- and long-format scrolls, 
and as argued in footnote 5 even the BL collection contains more examples of the 
short format than was apparent. This new-found preponderance of short-format 
scrolls further weakens any connection with the Greek and Chinese scroll tradi¬ 
tions, and it suggests that the short-format scrolls played a more central role in 
the development of the Gandharan tradition than previously thought. 

A complete reevaluation of the origin of the Gandharan scroll format is thus 
needed, and the first question is whether any other ancient manuscript culture 
was in contact vdth Gandhara and could have been instrumental in the develop¬ 
ment of the Gandharan tradition. The most obvious candidate is the Achaemenid 
empire which ruled Gandhara from the to the 4* century BCE. It has long 
been agreed that Kharosthi - the writing system used in Gandharan inscriptions 
and manuscripts - is a derivative of the Aramaic script used in the administra¬ 
tion of the Achaemenid empire (von Hiniiber 1990, 55, Falk 1993, 92-99), and if 
the Aramaic scribal tradition provided the graphical raw material for Gandharan 
manuscript culture, then its influence may very well also have extended to the 
physical support of texts - the format, construction and use of manuscripts - and 
it is surprising that this possibility has so far received no discussion at all. 

Our earliest evidence for Aramaic scribal practice are Assyrian bas-reliefs of 
the 8* and 7* centuries BCE, depicting the recording of plunder (Dougherty 1928, 
129-133, Hyatt 1943, 73, Lemaire 1985,119; Figure 11). These records were kept in 


Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


215 


duplicate, on clay tablets in cuneiform script and on parchment or papyrus man¬ 
uscripts in Aramaic script. In these reliefs, the Aramaic scribe is shown standing 
up, with a pen in one hand and a flexible sheet or scroll, curling up at the bottom, 
in his other hand. Lemaire 1985,119-122 collects the evidence for the material of 
Aramaic manuscripts and suggests that leather was used where special durabil¬ 
ity was called for (e.g., in the Achaemenid royal archives, and thus in the records 
of plunder), but that papyrus - where available - was the more common writing 
material for other purposes (including letters and private contracts).^*’ 



Fig. 11: Aramaic scribe with scroll In Assyrian relief (Hyatt 19A3, fig. 5). 


Documentary evidence for the Achaemenid Aramaic scribal tradition is available 
from the 5‘*' and centuries BCE. The total known corpus includes about 150 
documents and consists of the following major manuscript deposits; 

1. Approximately one hundred contracts, letters and other documents on 
papyrus from the archive of a Jewish military colony in Elephantine at the 
southern border of Egypt. The bulk of these was published in Sayce 1906, 
Sachau 1911 and Cowley 1923; Kraeling 1953 added seventeen documents. 


26 Haran 1982 similarly argues that papyrus was the common writing material in Israel until 
about the S* century BCE, when the beginning canonization of Biblical literature in the Second 
Temple period led to the preferred use of parchment for scriptural texts. Hicks 1983 acknowl¬ 
edges the existence of both papyrus and parchment manuscripts in early Israel, but suggests the 
texts that came to constitute the Old Testament may have been written on parchment from the 
beginning. 






216 


Stefan Baums 


2. Five private letters on papyrus sent from northern Egypt to Hermopolis in 
central Egypt, where they were discovered inside a jar in a necropolis for the 
ibis bird (Bresciani/Kamil 1966). 

3. Thirteen letters on parchment sent by Arsham, the satrap of Egypt, from Susa 
to his local governor (Driver 1954). 

4. Thirty official letters, lists of provisions and records of debt, probably from 
the archive of the satrap of Bactria, written on parchment, and all but one 
dating to the 4‘^ century BCE (Shaked 2004, Naveh/Shaked 2012). 

Within the Achaemenid empire, letters such as those of the satrap Arsham were 
conveyed over great distances by a postal system of highways, horses and relay 
stations that was subsequently adopted by Alexander the Great (Westermann 
1928, 375-376). In the 4* century BCE, Alexander’s general Nearchus reported 
that in Gandhara letters were written on tightly-woven pieces of cloth (cv aiv66ai 
Aiav KCKpoTqpcvaig; Janert 1955/56, 53-55, Falk 1993, 290), and it is likely that 
he referred to Aramaic letters used by the Achaemenid bureaucracy in Gandhara 
(von Hiniiber 1990, 20-21), even though cloth is not attested among the Aramaic 
finds from Bactria, Persia and Egypt. In the 3"^ century BCE, the Asokan inscrip¬ 
tions in Aramaic (Boyce/Grenet 1991,131-149) attest to the continued use of this 
language and script in Gandhara. 

Detailed studies of the Aramaic documents from Egypt and Persia have been 
carried out by Bezalel Porten (especially Porten 1979 and 1980), and the follow¬ 
ing overview of Aramaic scroll construction and use is based on his findings. The 
recent publication of the Bactrian archive has confirmed the results set out below. 

At least in those parts of the Achaemenid empire where papyrus rolls were 
available, the Aramaic tradition also distinguished between a long format (hori¬ 
zontal scrolls filled in columns and used for literary works and long lists) and a 
short format (for letters, contracts and shorter accounts; Porten 1980,41). Depend¬ 
ing on the importance of the short-format documents and on the available raw 
materials, they could be produced from more durable parchment or less durable 
papyrus (and, according to Nearchus, also from cloth). In the case of papyrus, 
the starting point for both scroll formats were long rolls of about 40 cm in width 
that had themselves been glued together from sheets in such a way that on the 
recto the papyrus fibers were perpendicular to the joins, while on the verso they 
were parallel to the joins. The orientation of the horizontal long-format scrolls 
was accordingly such that the lines of writing followed the direction of the fibers 
(and were perpendicular to the joins) on the recto, but in the short-format scrolls 
the lines of writing are perpendicular to the fibers (and parallel to the joins) on 
the recto. This indicates that in the production, inscribing and use of short-format 


Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


217 


Aramaic documents the orientation of the writing material was vertical (Porten 
1979, 80), and confirms the visual evidence of the Assyrian reliefs. 

Based on an examination of more than 30 Aramaic short-format documents, 
Porten 1979,78-79,92 distinguishes three different types of width among papyrus 
scrolls - a small size of 25-26 cm, a medium size of 27-28 cm and a large size of 
30-32 cm^^ - as well as a typical width of 30-32 cm among parchment letters. 
The width range of Aramaic short-format scrolls thus overlaps with that of the 
Gandharan short-format scrolls studied in this article (ca. 20 cm to 27 cm), but 
not with that of the Gandharan long-format scrolls (14 cm to ca. 15.5 cm). Porten 
does not provide an account of the heights of his documents, but the photographs 
published in the editions of Aramaic documents show that their height varied as 
much as that of the Gandharan short-format scrolls, from a slightly-wider-than- 
high aspect ratio (like in scroll RS 19) to scrolls that are considerably higher than 
they are wide (like BL 5B), depending on the space requirements of their content 
(Porten 1979,92). 

Aramaic papyrus scrolls (and presumably also parchment scrolls) were 
inscribed with a black ink made from carbon mixed with a thin gum solution, 
using a reed brush (specimens of which have been found) as writing instrument 
(Porten 1979, 76, 79-80). While some uncertainty remains about the exact com¬ 
position of Gandharan ink and while no original pens have yet been discovered 
in Gandhara, the basic tools of the two scribal traditions thus agree in general 
outline. When an Aramaic scribe needed to correct a mistake he blotted it out 
using a piece of cloth or his finger (Haran 1982,168-169), another habit that he 
shared with his Gandharan counterparts (see section 4). 

The extent to which the Aramaic writing material was filled with text, and 
the way in which the text was laid out, depended both on the type of text and 
the nature of the material. Letters on parchment and contracts on parchment or 
papyrus were inscribed on the recto only (Porten 1979, 88-90, 92). In the case of 
parchment, this was due to the coarse surface of the verso which made it unsuit¬ 
able for writing. The motivation for writing contracts on one side only is less clear, 
but it is likely that the physical protection of the content was more important in 
this type of text than in others. When a scroll was inscribed on both sides, the 
scribe would flip it over vertically in reaching the bottom of the recto, and con¬ 
tinue inscribing the verso from the same end of the scroll (Porten 1980, 42), in 
just the same way as the early Gandharan scribes. The text area of Aramaic short- 
format documents starts one or two centimeters from the right edge of the scroll, 
and lines run as close to the left margin as their content allowed, corresponding 


27 Porten 1980, 39-40 operates with two standard widths of 27 cm and 32 cm instead. 



218 


Stefan Baums 


exactly to the Gandharan practice. The top sheet (approximately 15-20 cm) of 
a contract scroll was usually left empty (Porten 1979, 81), presumably again for 
the protection of the content of the scroll when it was folded up, a practice that 
we also observed in the Gandharan long-format scroll Dhp-G’’' and in the short- 
format scroll BC 8. When an Aramaic scribe ran out of writing surface before 
he could complete his text, he would turn the sheet clockwise and continue 
writing in the right margin (Porten 1979, 92), in the same fashion that the scribe 
of Gandharan scroll BC 16 continued his text in the right (and top) margin when 
he had reached the end of his verso. The endorsement of an Aramaic contract 
and the recipient address of an Aramaic letter were written at the very bottom 
of the verso so that they would be visible when the scroll was folded up (Porten 
1979, 80-81). As shown in section 4, there are strong indications that the recipient 
address on scroll BC 15 also occupied this position, providing yet another paral¬ 
lelism between Aramaic and early Gandharan scribal practice. 

For storage or transportation, Aramaic short-format documents would be 
folded up vertically from the bottom to the top of the scroll, in such a way that 
the recto faced the inside (Porten 1979, 80-81). When the scroll had been folded 
up all the way into a compact strip, one of several forms of horizontal folding 
would be applied, depending on the type of document: contracts were folded in 
thirds, while letters were folded either in half, or first in half and then in quarters 
(Porten 1979, 88-90; Figure 12). The primary vertical folding of Aramaic short- 
format documents thus corresponds precisely to the folding of both short-format 
and long-format scrolls in early Gandhara, and one of the two variants of horizon¬ 
tal folding of Aramaic letters corresponds to the horizontal folding of Gandharan 
short-format scrolls. 

In view of this long list of detailed agreements in the way that short-format 
documents were prepared, inscribed and used in the Achaemenid empire and 
in early Gandhara, and on the historical background of the Achaemenid admin¬ 
istration of Gandhara at the time when the Aramaic script was first adapted to 
the vnriting of the Gandhari language, I therefore suggest that Aramaic manu¬ 
script formats and scribal habits as practised in the Achaemenid empire likevdse 
formed the starting point for the Gandharan manuscript tradition. The immedi¬ 
ate point of contact between the two traditions is provided by their short-format 
documents, and also historically it seems likely that the inhabitants of Gandhara 
under Achaemenid administration primarily (or even exclusively) observed the 
use of Aramaic manuscripts and writing in the form of documents regulating 
their everyday affairs. When they made this new cultural technique their own, 
evidently also applying it to legal and administrative purposes, the first innova¬ 
tion consisted in the use of the locally available writing material birch bark. The 
long strips of bark harvested from trees replaced the strips of parchment and rolls 


Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


219 












Ro< VnM OoM«) 
Pfom Too Oi$o>ayino 
Endorsement 


Ron Turned Over 
From Side Endorsemertf 
Upside Down 


Fig. 12: Inscribing and folding of an Aramaic contract scroll (Porten 1979, 79). 

of papyrus, and vertical margin threads were introduced to compensate for the 
greater fragility of birch bark, but in all other respects the preparation and use 
of short-format documents remained the same that it had been in the Aramaic 
tradition. 

When manuscripts started being used for the transmission and ritual han¬ 
dling of Buddhist (and non-Buddhist) literature, the need for a separate long 
format arose. But as noted above, the Aramaic long format was probably never 
very familiar in Gandhara and presumably disappeared completely as a possible 
model with the collapse of the Achaemenid empire in the 4* century BCE. The 
corresponding Greek long-format type may have been used in the Greek colonies 
in Bactria around the same time, but the cultural influence of these Greek col¬ 
onies did not permeate Gandhara until the middle of the 2"*^ century BCE, and 
thus the Greek scroll also appears to have been unavailable as a model for the 
development of the Gandharan long-format type. Because of the unavailability 









































220 


Stefan Baums 


of these external models, the development of the Gandharan long-format scroll 
proceeded as a simple vertical extension of the short-format type as described in 
detail above, but possibly inspired by the observation that Aramaic short-format 
scrolls on papyrus were cut from rolls that wrere originally glued together from 
sheets. If this scenario is accepted, then it suggests that the development of the 
Gandharan long-format scroll occurred between the end of Achaemenid rule 
and the beginning of strong Greek influence in Gandhara, at some point of time 
beween 300 and 150 BCE. 

The evidence thus indicates that birch-bark scrolls in two different formats 
constituted the primary manuscript type of Gandhara for approximately five 
hundred years, until they fell out of use and were replaced by the pan-South- 
Asian writing material palm leaf and its narrow horizontal format. The almost 
complete disappearance of the scroll format appears to have gone hand in hand 
with the replacement of Gandhari as a literary language by Sanskrit, and both 
processes are clearly illustrated by the 2"'*- to 4*-century CE Kharosthi manu¬ 
scripts found at Bamiyan and in Xinjiang (see Table 1) which are not only exclu¬ 
sively written on palm leaf but show a high degree of Sanskritization. The later 
use of birch bark for other manuscript types falls outside the scope of this article, 
but it is interesting to note that we can distinguish three cycles of the introduction 
and adaptation of manuscript traditions in Gandhara and the surrounding areas: 

1. In the 6* century BCE, Gandhara comes under the influence of the Achaeme¬ 
nid empire and is introduced to the Aramaic administrative manuscript tradi¬ 
tion. It adapts both the writing system and the writing material of this tradi¬ 
tion to the local language and to a locally available raw material. 

2. In the 2"'^ century CE, Gandhara comes into closer contact with the manu¬ 
script traditions of mainland South Asia, using the Brahmi script and palm 
leaf as writing material. The local script and literary language are given 
up, and birch-bark manuscripts imitating the palm-leaf format become the 
general manuscript type of Gandhara (Sander 1968, 24, 27-29). 

3. In the late millenium CE, Gandharan Buddhist manuscript culture gradu¬ 
ally disappears. Western paper formats and the codex are introduced to the 
region, but in Kashmir birch bark continues to be used for the production of 
manuscript codices, until paper is adopted as the general writing material 
under Mughal influence in the 17**^ century CE (Biihler 1877, 29-30). 

The Gandharan scroll format survived in niche applications for amulets and 
ritual purposes (Gough 1878,17-18, Biihler 1896, 88, Janert 1955/56, 71-72, Losty 
1982, 9). The earliest example for this practice appears to be part of the same 
manuscript deposit as the rest of the BE collection (Salomon 1999, 46). The scroll 
in question (BE 6) is exceptionally narrow (5.5 cm) and made from a single piece 


Gandharan Scrolls: Rediscovering an Ancient Manuscript Type 


221 


of bark. In contrast to all other known Gandharan scrolls it is written in Brahmi. 
It appears to contain a Buddhist stitra comparing the human body to a city (not a 
medical text as initially reported). A very similar narrow paper scroll, measuring 
6.4 cm in width and containing a collection of sutras and magical formulas, was 
found in Shorchuk on the Northern Silk Road (Waldschmidt 1959). At the other 
end of the spectrum in terms of size and chronology, we find large illustrated 
scrolls to be carried in procession, such as the twenty-meter-long cloth scroll con¬ 
taining a Devanagari text of the Bhdgavatapurdna illustrated in Gaur 1972,160. In 
all of these later scrolls the general parameters of text layout and the direction of 
folding or rolling remained the same as in the early Gandharan scroll types. 

Further research is needed on the historical relationship between the 
Gandharan birch-bark scroll format and the thin sheets of gold, silver and copper 
that often accompanied contemporary Buddhist relic deposits, recording their 
donor and beneficiaries and sometimes quoting from canonical literature (Baums 
2012). These metal sheets are typically much wider than high and rolled up hori¬ 
zontally, but some resemble the short-format birch-bark scrolls in their dimen¬ 
sions, and the Senavarma gold sheet (Baums 2012, no. 24) shows signs of having 
been folded in thirds horizontally (like the Aramaic contract scrolls, but without 
prior vertical folding). Janert 1955/56, 42 independently suggested that the metal 
sheets might imitate pieces of birch bark folded up and deposited in reliquar¬ 
ies, and several reports of birch-bark “twists” found in reliquaries but now lost 
(summarized in Salomon 1999,59-61) may refer to these prototypes for the metal 
sheets. Two recently-found copper books - consisting, respectively, of five and 
eight plates that have the general shape and size of birch-bark sheets and are 
linked to each other by metal rings - may similarly represent metal imitations 
of long-format birch-bark scrolls, and the recent edition of the shorter of these 
books (Falk 2014) reveals a relic-donation formula expanded by numerous scrip¬ 
tural quotations, similar to the text on the Senavarma gold sheet. A full edition 
of the other copper book remains an urgent desideratum, but it seems increas¬ 
ingly likely that the legendary reports of Buddhist canonical texts engraved on 
copper and interred in stupas - most notably by the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang 
(7* century CE) in reference to the Buddhist council under Kaniska (Biihler 1896, 
90, Janert 1955/56,43, Falk 1993,309) - are rooted in a memory of such long, liter¬ 
ary relic inscriptions on copper imitations of long-format birch-bark scrolls. 


222 


Stefan Baums 


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Gudrun Melzer 

A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist 
Manuscript from the Gilgit Region 

A Glimpse into a Scribes’ Workshop 


1 Introduction 

About twelve years ago, a fairly well preserved, voluminous birch-bark manu¬ 
script was sold on the antiquities market to collectors in Japan, Norway, and the 
United States (Figures l-2)t It contains the canonical Sanskrit text of the long 
discourses of the Buddha, the Dlrghagama of the (Mula-)Sarvastivada tradition, 
one of the most influential schools of non-Mahayana Buddhism. The manuscript 
can be dated to the latter half of the 8* century or slightly later. Several of the 
texts in the manuscript show numerous scribal errors that, in places, make these 
texts nearly incomprehensible. Since the manuscript is only incompletely pre¬ 
served and is the only surviving copy of these texts, an editor today who wishes to 
make them accessible for a wider audience will quite naturally begin to resent the 
responsible scribes. But presumably a Buddhist reader of the 8**^ century - even 
if generally familiar with the content of these texts - would also have had dif¬ 
ficulties due to the many misspellings and omissions in some parts of the manu¬ 
script.^ In fact, one wonders what the purpose of such a manuscript might have 
been. It is possible that it was not intended to be actually used, to be read and 


1 The first part of the manuscript up to folio 266 is preserved merely in fragments. A few folios 
(e.g., 289 and 290) are still stuck together, and as yet their contents cannot be accessed. The last 
folio is numbered 454. More than half of the manuscript is presently accessible in the form of 
digital images of good quality. 

2 Most of the leaves are in a private collection in Virginia (USA). Folios 330-363 and 367-384 
belong to the Hirayama collection in Kamakura (Japan), folios 364-366 are owned by Bukkyo 
University in Kyoto (Japan) and a few fragments are part of the Martin Schoyen collection in Oslo 
(Norway). Three small fragments from the Govindasutra were offered for sale in 2005 by Isao 
Kurita (Tokyo). On the manuscript in general, see Hartmann 2000, 2002a, 2004a, 2014, as well 
as Melzer 2010,1-10. 

3 Also present-day readers are often well equipped; with large digital collections of texts of the 
same school or of related traditions in Sanskrit and Pali, as well as with translations into Tibetan 
or Chinese that are easily searchable, together with a network of specialised scholar friends al¬ 
ways eager to give helpful suggestions. At this point, I would like to thank Jan-Ulrich Sobisch 
for inviting me to the Copenhagen Workshop on manuscriptology in 2007 and the participants 
for their suggestions. I am also grateful to Lore Sander, who read the draft of this article and 



228 


Gudrun Melzer 


Studied, but was rather produced for a library as part of a complete set of the Bud¬ 
dhist scriptures regarded at that time as canonical or fundamental. Another pos¬ 
sibility, although less likely, is that it was copied to keep in a stupa, as the word of 
the Buddha, where it would have remained unseen and untouched. But the situ¬ 
ation is complicated further by the fact that although the manuscript was written 
so carelessly with regard to its contents, the general layout of the pages was done 
with care and the script is appealing. For this reason, a detailed palaeographi- 
cal analysis of the manuscript was undertaken. This analysis yielded rewarding 
results. It seems that a considerable number of the flaws were not copied from the 
earlier original manuscripts, but possibly occurred only in the course of writing 
this manuscript due to the way the scribes worked. Indeed, from studying this 
manuscript, it became evident that the impact of individual scribes on canonical 
Buddhist texts should not be underestimated. 

After a brief introduction about the manuscript and its errors, the individual 
characteristics of the scribes and their working methods vdll be discussed, as 
well as some palaeographic peculiarities typical for manuscripts of this period. 
In the long tradition of copying Buddhist manuscripts, it is clear that also other 
factors most likely led to the present condition of the text. These must also be 
searched for, such as special characteristics in the language, which underwent 
changes over the centuries. 


2 The manuscript of the Dirghagama of the 
(MQla-)Sarvastivadms 

Only two complete versions of text collections of the long Buddha discourses are 
thus far known, one in Pali and one in Chinese. These other complete versions 
belong to other Buddhist schools (Theravada and Dharmaguptaka, respectively) 
and differ in many respects from the newly discovered manuscript. Although 
some texts are common to all three collections, the exact wording is different 
from one version to another, and therefore it is not possible to rely on parallel 
passages to fill gaps, as for example where our manuscript is damaged. There are 
also a few texts in the newly discovered manuscript that have no textual paral¬ 
lels in the other two collections. The closest parallels can usually be found in 
Tibetan translations of (Mula-)Sarvastivada texts, but many of the texts in the 
Dirghagama lack even a Tibetan translation. 


provided numerous helpful comments. Jens-Uwe Hartmann kindly provided the scans of the 
Dirghagama folios in the American collection, and Cynthia Peck-Kubaczek corrected my English. 



A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Giigit Region 


229 


According to a radiocarbon dating (^^C), the earliest possible date for the pro¬ 
duction of our manuscript is the second half of the 8*^ century.'' The exact place 
of origin is not known. However, the antiquity dealer who sold the manuscript 
provided the information that it was discovered by chance in Giigit. Indeed, its 
formal aspects do show a close similarity to later manuscripts from the famous 
Giigit finds.^ 

The tovm of Giigit lies on ancient trade routes in northern Pakistan, in a region 
that was called Patola or Palola at the time our manuscript was written. The town 
became famous after a number of manuscripts were discovered there in 1931 and 
cursory excavations were undertaken in 1938. The original function of the build¬ 
ing in whose ruins the manuscripts were found is still not conclusively clear.® 
With very few exceptions, the manuscripts in the find are written on birch-bark 
and date to the 6* to 8**’ centuries (or slightly later) Two kinds of standardised 
scripts were used. Lore Sander has called them Gilgit/Bamiyan, type 1 (GB 1), 
and Gilgit/Bamiyan, type 2 (GB 2), since both are also attested in Afghanistan.® 
Because GB 2 gradually developed into the regional script of greater Kashmir, it is 
also called Proto-Sarada (PS); it corresponds in general to the north Indian script 


4 The possible period of production lies between 764 and 1000 CE. Cf. Alton et al. 2006,279-280, 

n. 3. 

5 A truck driver independently informed Andrew Glass (a scholar who visited the area soon after 
the find) that in 1998, a manuscript of similar shape and a few other objects were found in a 
hole in a field near the so-called Kargah Buddha and the Giigit River, at a place called Basin (see 
Melzer 2010, 4-5). While it is uncertain whether the account of the dealer (see Sadakata 1999; 
also mentioned in Hartmann 2000, 360, n. 4) can be trusted, and also whether the manuscript 
reported by the truck driver is the same as our Dlrghagama, but its close formal similarities with 
the manuscript of the Vinayavastvagama point to the Giigit area as a probable place of origin. 

6 On the Giigit manuscripts, see the references in Melzer 2010, 5, n. 21, and especially von 
Hiniiber 2014. For reflections on the shape of the building where the manuscripts were found, 
see Fussman 2004. For related discoveries of Buddhist bronzes and inscriptions, see in particular 
von Hiniiber 2004 and 2007. 

7 The manuscript of the Sarvadharmagunavyuharajasutra is written on palm-leaf. It has been 
studied and edited by von Criegern (2009) in his dissertation (currently in preparation for pub¬ 
lication). Two other manuscripts contain pages of “clay-coated paper”, as they are referred to in 
von Hiniiber 2014, 91. 

8 For descriptions, see Sander 1968, 122-123, 137. For the problems involved in naming these 
scripts, see Sander 2007, 126-129. The manuscripts written in GB 2 from Tumsuq and Toyoq 
(northern Silk Road in central Asia) were imported, or copied from imported manuscripts, ac¬ 
cording to Sander 1968,158-159. For details about GB 1 and the probable dates of its developed 
type from about the 6'*' century, see Sander 1968, 123, 129, 134. For GB 2 corresponding by and 
large with the alphabet m of Sander, see Sander 1968,141-148,154-161, Tafeln 21-26 and Hu-von 
Hiniiber 1994, 42 (printed as “41”) note 1, 520-521. An overview of the research that has been 
done on GB 2 is offered in Hu-von Hiniiber 1994, 37-40. 



230 


Gudrun Melzer 


Siddhamatrka, described by Al-Biruni at the beginning of the century.® GB 2 
gained general acceptance in the Gilgit area after the middle of the 7* century.“ 
The script has an elegant and even calligraphic appearance, due to alternating 
straight, broad lines and diagonal, very thin lines, vdth the nib slanting to the 
left.^^ Sander has examined trvo manuscripts in rvhich she has recognized twro 
types of this script,^^ the more developed closely resembling the script used in the 
Dlrghagama manuscript. In addition to the formal calligraphic type of writing, 
a more cursive form was also used in both scripts (GB 1 and GB 2), e.g., for colo¬ 
phons and interlinear insertions.Thus far, there have been no further attempts 
to study this script more systematically, with the exception of the numerals in 
the Gilgit manuscripts.^® But even a brief look at the facsimile editions shows 
that amongst the Gilgit manuscripts, there are several handwriting variants of 
the already established types of script (GB 1 and GB 2). More research is required 
in order to ascertain whether these variants existed concurrently, or if they have 
a chronological order. 

In contrast to the older manuscripts from Gilgit written in GB 1, which contain 
only Mahayana and Raksa texts,the majority of the later manuscripts vnritten in 


9 Sander 2007,128-129. For an attempt at a more precise definition within the regional develop¬ 
ment of the script, see appendix 11. 

10 In this context, an inscription on a bronze image of Varsa appears to be quite important. It is 
dated to the period of the ruler Navasurendradityanandi, and is the last inscription on a bronze 
of the Palola Sahis that contains the symbol for 20 of the old addition numerical system, rather 
than the new place-value system; see von Hiniiber 2004, 28-31, Nr. 11, Abb. 3, where it is dated 
to 645-654 CE. It also represents one of the last examples for the tripartite aksara ya in dated 
bronze inscriptions (ibid. p. 30). For the proposed dates of the dissemination of GB 2, see Sander 
1968,160 (6**'-10**' centuries), Sander 1989, 111 (7**'-10'*' centuries), von Hiniiber 1983,61-62 (from 
about 630 CE), von Hiniiber 1986-87, 226 (from about 620-30 CE), and von Hiniiber 2004, 89, 
99 (under Navasurendradityanandi, who ruled from about 644 or 655 to about 685 CE). Lore 
Sander (2007,130-131) has suggested the possibility that both scripts existed simultaneously for 
a while, at least until Navasurendradityanandi, and that Siddhamatrka/GB 2/PS was probably 
introduced into Greater Gandhara between the end of the 6® and the beginning of the 7® century. 

11 Sander 1968,141-142; Sander 1989, 112; Sander 2007, 130-131. 

12 See Sander 1968, 142-143. The relevant manuscripts are SHT 638, from Central Asia, and a 
Pratimoksasutra manuscript from Gilgit (von Hiniiber 1979, 341, Nr. 3a). For the two main types 
widely evidenced in GB 2, see appendix 11. 

13 Sander 1989, 107-108. This variant of the script can be compared with inscriptions on stone 
and bronzes. 

14 Frentz 1987 Unfortunately, this important study has remained unpublished. A detailed pa- 
laeographic study is also not available for GB 1. This lack has been pointed out in von Hiniiber 
1979, 336, Frentz 1987, 3, and Tripathi 1995,14. 

15 The very few exceptions concern fragments from texts that were circulated in a Mahayana and 
a non-Mahayana environment, such as the Pradaksinagathas and the Adhhutadharmaparydya. 



A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Giigit Region 


231 


GB 2/PS belong to the milieu of the (Mula-)Sarvastivada branch of BuddhismP® 
According to the evidence known today, this shifting focus of attention also seems 
to be testified by book cult practices (the donation of manuscripts of Buddhist 
Mahayana sutras). This practice seems to have come to an end during the reign 
of Navasurendradityanandid^ subsequent rulers and their wives only donated 
bronze images, although some of these are of extraordinary artistic quality. While 
a few of the earliest bronzes show figures from the Mahayana pantheon, such as 
Avalokitesvara and Prajnaparamita, the later bronzes mainly represent Buddhas 
or the bodhisattva Maitreya and therefore cannot be safely attributed to a particu¬ 
lar Buddhist tradition.^® The Dlrghagama manuscript, written in the developed 
form of GB 2/PS, belongs to this later (Mula-)Sarvastivada tradition of Buddhist 
manuscripts. 

The size of the folios (10 x 50 cm)^® is wider and slightly shorter in length than 
the large palm-leaf manuscripts from eastern India. The text is written in eight 
lines, with a few exceptions (seven and nine lines). On the left half of the folios, 
lines three to six are interrupted after the first third by a square space around the 
string-hole, through which a string, however, has never been drawn, as can be 
gleaned from the perfectly round state of preservation (Figure 1).^“ The general 
appearance of the script is even, and the variation between thin and broad lines 


16 There are only a few Mahayana texts, and most are preserved only as fragments: one folio 
of the Bhaisajyagum(vaiduryaprabharaja)sutra (Ser. no. 32), two copies of the Samghdtasutra 
(Ser. no. 39 and Srinagar Collection no. IS; the script of ser. no. 39 differs from the Dlrghagama 
manuscript and shows more frequently older aksara types), one folio of a text similar to the 
Dasabhumikasutra (Ser. no. 57: GBM 3338-3339), and a loose parallel to the final part of the 
Aparimitayuhsiitra (Ser. no. 61b: GBM 3366). The only extant Raksa texts are fragments of the 
Mahdmdyurividydrdjhl (one folio as Ser. no. 56a in New Delhi and many fragments in Srinagar) 
and a mahdraksa added after the Hayagrivavidyd in GB 1 script (Ser. no. 33b: GBM 2459-2460). 
A few fragments are still unidentified and their affiliation is therefore unclear (Ser. no. 42, 51e, 
52d, 56g [GBM 3344 contains key-words from the Arthasdstra], 57, 59a). Finally, there are also 
non-Buddhist texts, namely a grammatical fragment (see Kaul Shastri 1939 und von Hiniiber 
2014), two medical treatises (see Kaul Shastri 1939 and Ser. no. 20: Annapdnavidhi), and two 
folios of the *Devitantrasadbhdvasdra, a saiva tantric text (Ser. nos. 41 and 56e, see Sanderson 
2009, 50-51, note 22, however, the suggested date of the middle of the century appears to be 
slightly too early). The dominance of (Mula-)Sarvastivada texts in GB 2 has also been mentioned 
in Sander 2007, 130, note 62. References to the type of script used in these Giigit manuscripts 
can be found in Frentz 1987, 76-162. For details of all these manuscripts, see von Flinilber 2014. 

17 See von Hiniiber 2004, 91. 

18 The fact that many of these depict the Buddha with a crown and wearing jewellery is not 
necessarily proof that they belong to the Mahayana tradition. 

19 Hartmann 2002a, 133. 

20 On folio 384v, the blank space for the string-hole is unusually placed between lines 4 and 6. 
The few leaves written in nine lines show the string-hole between lines 4 and 5. The exact mea- 



232 


Gudrun Melzer 



Fig. 2: Dirghagama Manuscript, last folio ASA v 


A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Giigit Region 


233 





234 


Gudrun Melzer 


of the aksaras gives it an elegant and almost calligraphic appearance. The individ¬ 
ual texts and verse summaries {udddna) of the manuscript are set apart by small 
empty squares, mostly two lines tall, bordered by double dandas at both ends. 
The end of the entire text is marked by three large decorated circles (Figure 2). 
Their geometric flower shape, drawn with the help of a compass, resembles the 
decorations on the last page of the Vinayavastvdgama manuscript from Gilgit 
of about the same period (Figure 3). Of all the Gilgit manuscripts published in 
facsimile, the Vinayavastvdgama manuscript is the only one with detailed orna¬ 
ments, although these surpass in elaboration those found in the Dirghdgama 
manuscript.The Vinayavastvdgama manuscript also shares many other simi¬ 
larities with the Dirghdgama manuscript. 

The second half of the manuscript is mostly intact. Many pages, however, 
show damaged portions along the right or left margin. Some of the missing parts 
have been found as fragments, but others are lost. Birch bark consists of several 
layers, and with time it becomes fragile. When the layers separate, they easily 
break into very small fragments. Such separated, loose fragments sometimes 
stick to pages where they do not belong.^^ Occasionally, mirror images help us 
to recover single words or syllables, as in cases in which the original has been 
partly damaged or lost, but the ink has left an impression on the facing page. In 
other cases, if a layer of birch-bark has been folded, the aksaras that shine only 
faintly through can be made more legible with the help of a mirror image. The 
observations on palaeographic peculiarities detailed below were only possible 


surements for the empty space vary, as do the measurements for the margin. For further details, 
see Melzer 2010, 2. 

21 The manuscript of the Vinayavastvdgama is generally written in ten lines with the exception 
of the last folio. It is larger than the Dirghdgama manuscript, measuring 66.3-66.5 cm in length 
and 12.2-12.5 cm in width (Hu von Hiniiber 1994, 36). For a description of the manuscript, see 
Wille 1990, 35 and Hu-von Hiniiber 1994, 36. For the different editions, see von Hiniiber 2014, 
93-94. The last folio is published in facsimile in GBM1050, GM III.2 after p. xxii (the correct folio 
number reads 523; cf. Wille 1990, 35), and von Hiniiber 2014, fig. 4. Much smaller and simpler 
circular ornaments can be also seen in GBM 1452 and 1706. Such geometrical flower embellish¬ 
ments are, however, not confined to manuscripts written in GB 2, since in a few cases they also 
occur in a similar shape in later manuscripts from eastern India and Nepal. See a folio from a 
palm-leaf manuscript of the Astasahasrikd Prajhdpdramitd dated to Nepal Samvat 128 (1008 CE) 
in the Cambridge University Library (Add. 866, folio 201; Bendall 1883, 1-4, pi. 1.3), and a folio 
from the same text from year 14 of the reign of Nayapala, kept at the Los Angeles County Museum 
of Art (M.72.1.20ab). 

22 When such fragments are superficially in line with the surrounding text, it is often the case 
that one must take extra care to recognise that they do not belong there. Since the leaves in the 
US private collection are shrink-wrapped in plastic sheets, at the moment such fragments cannot 
be removed. 



A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Giigit Region 


235 


due to the fact that large sections of the manuscript are available in the form of 
excellent scans.^^ 


3 Some typical examples of scribal errors in the 
manuscript 

The physical condition of this manuscript is not the only problem in recover¬ 
ing its text. The reader is also faced with scribal errors. The following selected 
examples from the Silaskandha-nipdta, which is one of the three sections of the 
Dlrghagama, demonstrate some typical errors. 

Misspellings due to misunderstanding the master copy occur frequently, 
since there are many possibilities for confusing aksaras that have similar 
shapes.^'' Such misspellings are usually clear. However, difficulties arise when 
several such confusions occur in the same phrase, or when they occur together 
with other types of errors, in particular vdth omissions. On rare occasions, syl¬ 
lables or words have been distorted.^^ Several words have been misspelled due to 
association with similar words.Sometimes, incorrect declinations or conjuga¬ 
tions can be found.^^ There are also superfluous visargas, vowel diacritics, syl¬ 
lables, words and phrases. Most of these can be explained as dittography. 

The most common types of scribal errors are omissions. Omissions can be as 
small as single anusvdms, vowel diacritics or syllables, or as long as words, whole 


23 In contrast to digital photography, scans have the advantage that information about the ac¬ 
tual size of the manuscript is also stored. When working with the digital images of the central 
Asian Sanskrit manuscripts of the British Library (published at http://idp.bl.uk/), for example, 
it is almost impossible to recognize fragments belonging to the same folio because the digital 
photographs have been taken at different scales (even though a simple ruler is included on the 
images). 

24 E.g., -dm and -o, ga and so, dva and du etc. For a more complete list, see Melzer 2010, 65. 

25 E.g. purusamahdlaksandni “great marks of a man”, instead of mahdpurusalaksandni “marks 
of a great man” (35.7), which even gives a certain sense. In combination with omitted syllables, 
we read in one passage lokesu “amongst the people” for ko{sa)Iesu “amongst the Kosalas” (35.16). 
Edited passages of the Dlrghagama manuscript are referred to according to their number in my 
edition of the text. The first number denotes the sequence of the sutra as given in Hartmann 
2004a, 125-128. 

26 E.g., namaslairvarnti instead of satkurvamti (35.29), putravdna instead of purdna<rn> (35.35), 
kusalavarnsa instead of kulavarnsa (35.51), bhdsisyati instead of bhavisyati (35.111). 

27 E.g., (vdca)ydmi instead of vdcitdni (35.7), icchdnarngalena instead of icchdnarngaldyd (35.13), 
samanvesayati instead of samanvesaydmi (35.35), bhavati instead of bhavasi (35.36), anuprayac- 
chati instead of anuprayacchatu (35.40), pravrajitah instead of pravrajati (39.23), etc. 



236 


Gudrun Melzer 


sentences or even lines. Some may have already been in the master copy or in an 
earlier copy; others can be explained as haplographies. The reader can be content 
if he finds a remnant of an omitted word or phrase.^® 

The following problematic passage, whose original reading and reconstruc¬ 
tion are quoted below, resisted a solution for quite a long time. The first problem is 
that the most important finite verb, nagamayati “he does not wait”, was omitted. 
Then the following aksara ma was confused for sa, which leads to the opposite 
meaning (sagauravo “respectful” instead of -m agauravo “respectless”). Follow¬ 
ing this is the word pmtigaumyitavyam, but this word is not attested in any dic¬ 
tionary. It was probably created in analogy to {s)agaumvo, and must be corrected 
to pratimantrayitavyam. Finally, the last verb reads in the third person plural, 
although a singular ending is required.^® 


Original Reading Reconstruction 


sopanatka[s com].r. mamano ntarantara 
katham utpadayati kathdparyavasdna 
sagauravo pratlsah pratigaurayitavyam 
ma[n]yante 

“... walking around with shoes, talking from 
time to time, the end of the talk..., he, who 
is respectful and who is impolite; they intend 
to ... ipratigaurayitavyaml)’’ 


sopanatkas cani(k)ria)nianidno 'ntarantara 
katham utpadayati wdgamayath 
kathdparyavasdnam agauravo 'pratlsah 
pratimgntrgyitavyarn manya{n]te (35.21) 

"... walking around with shoes, talking from 
time to time, he does not await the end of the 
talk [of his colleagues]. Being disrespectful and 
impolite, he intends to oppose [the Buddha].” 


Usually, in such cases one would first search for repetitions in the same text, since 
repetitions are characteristic for this type of Buddhist literature. In this case, the 
whole phrase should be repeated in the next line, as is evidenced by the context 
and the Tibetan translation. But apparently the scribe omitted an entire line:^” 


28 If a text is problematic and appears to have something added that is out of place, this most 
likely indicates an omission, e.g. sramanoh sdkyaputtrah (“the ascetic, the Sakya son”): The ap¬ 
parently fitting correction of the word sramanoh to sramanah turns out to be incorrect. As can 
be gleaned from other occurrences of this word group, a word has been omitted, of which only 
the final visarga remains. The correct reading is: sramano <gautama>h sdkyaputtrah “the ascetic 
Gautama, the Sakya son” (35.4). 

29 The following conventions are used here: restorations in gaps (...); damaged aksara(s) [...]; 
omission of (a part of) an aksara without a gap in the manuscript <...>; superfluous (part of an) 
aksara {...}. 

30 For further comments on this passage, see the notes to my edition of 35.21 (Melzer 2010). 







A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Giigit Region 


237 


tvam tathagatasya vyam manyase (35.23) tvam tathagatasya (vrddhavrddhanam 
“You intend to ... {vyaml) the Tathagata.” autkatandm brdhmandndm dharmydydm 

kathdydm kathyamdndydm sopdnatkas 
camkramamdno 'ntardntard kathdm utpddayasi 
ndgamayasi kathdparyavasdnam agauravo 
'pratlsah pratimantrayhawyam manyase 


One of the most corrupt passages in the manuscript is found in the Prsthapalasutra, 
where the text is hopelessly incomprehensible. Fortunately the topic of the four¬ 
teen questions left unanswered by the Buddha is well known from other sources:^^ 


sdsvato loka idam eva satyam mohasatyad 
iti andsvatas cdsdsvatas ca naiva sdsvato 
ndsdsvata • anantavdn antah anantavdn 
antah anantavdmgd[s].[a].... vdms cd 
naivdntavd ndnantavdn ma j'Tvas tac charlram 
bhavati tathdgatah param marand na bhavati 
bhavati ca na bhavati naiva bhavati na na 
bhavati tathdgatah param maranod idam 
e + + .y.tn mo .. satyad iti 


sdsvato loka idam eva satyarn moham 
anvad iti I atsdsvato lokah |> sdsvatas 
cdsdsvatas ca <|> naiva sdsvato ndsdsvatah 
I ian)antavdm loka h I anantavdm loka h I 
{an}antavdm{gd}s {c)(.di{nanta)vdrns eg <|> 
naivdntavdmi ndnantavdn <|> sgjivas tac 
charlram I <anyo jivo ’nyac charlrarn |> bhavati 
tathdgatah pararn marandm |> na bhavati <|> 
bhavati ca na bhavati <ca |> naiva bhavati na na 
bhavati tathdgatah pararn marandd idam e(va 
saf)y(a)rn mo(ha)m anvad iti j (36.49) 


The transiation of the corrected passage reads: The worid is eternai; oniy this is true, every¬ 
thing eise is faise. The worid is impermanent. [It] is eternal and impermanent. [It] is neither 
eternal nor impermanent. The world is limited. The world is unlimited. [It] is limited and unlim¬ 
ited. [It] is neither limited nor unlimited. The jiva is the body. The jiva is something different 
than the body. The Tathagata exists after death. [He] does not exist after death. [He] exists and 
he does not exist. He neither exists nor does he not exist after death; only this is true, every¬ 
thing else is false. 


The appearance at this point of this passage in the manuscript is also slightly 
unexpected, as if perhaps a lengthier section has been omitted in the preced¬ 
ing part. It seems that the text of an earlier passage of the same Prsthapalasutra 
(36.16) has been botched. Here the Buddha repeats an argument of his opponent 
instead of saying that all the opinions of his opponents are false, which is indeed 
a grave intrusion into the text. 


31 For parallels and further details, see the notes to 36.49 in my edition. Avagrahas, daridas and 
dotted daridas (if a sandhi was not completed between two vowels) are introduced for the conve¬ 
nience of the reader. Sandhis have been left as they occur in the manuscript. The reading of the 
aksaras tya instead of nya, and malsa instead of salma is certain; however, it should be noted 
that these aksaras have a similar shape. 








238 


Gudrun Melzer 


Although the condition of the text is not as poor in all portions of the manu¬ 
script as these examples might imply, ten corruptions, including minor inconsis¬ 
tencies, in a single line are not an exception. 

In two stitras a few folios are missing, but they have been discovered in a 
later part of the manuscript, in the middle of another stitra. They were paginated 
according to their new context (folios 442-445). 


4 The manuscript’s scribes 

A detailed analysis of the palaeography allows us to gain some insight into the 
working process of the scribes. Even though the writing is a standardized cal¬ 
ligraphic script and it can be assumed that the scribes were all trained to write in 
exactly the same manner, a closer look at the script reveals that several scribes 
worked on this manuscript. Although for the untrained eye the shape of individ¬ 
ual aksams of the different scribes often resembles one another, there are other 
indications that allow us to distinguish between the different hands. The main 
characteristics of the individual hands is evident in the general appearance of the 
script, the ductus, the grade of evenness in the flow of strokes, the length and the 
proportions of the aksaras, the different angles of slant of originally vertical lines, 
the vddth of the vertical lines due to the different angles the pen might have been 
held, or to slightly varying sizes of the nib, the accuracy of the straight head lines, 
the frequency of impurities due to putting the pen down or to the birch-bark, and 
finally, tendencies for preferences of certain aksara shapes, e.g. for the aksams ya 
and ha. The aksara ya has two different forms: one is the established tripartite old 
type («lf «>^) and the other a more recent form ('a|), extant in Indian inscriptions 
from the end of the d*** century onwards.^^ A similar case can be observed with the 
aksara ha. While type 1 (t^) can be related to the older script GB 1, type 2 is not 
necessarily later (t^). However, it was only introduced in the greater Gilgit area 
in the 7**^ century, whereupon it gradually replaced the older type. It remained 
unchanged in the Sarada script of Kashmir until only recently. In the ligature 
hma, some scribes prefer the newly shaped ha, others do not. Occasionally, the 
frequent occurrence of jihvdmuliyas and upadhmanvyas, or of the old ya form is 
conspicuous. This may go back to the influence of the master copy, or to the readi¬ 
ness of the scribe to replace these forms. 

There are also two varieties of adding the diacritic -a to the aksara sa: either 
as a long horizontal stroke dravm from the left vertical to the right side of sa 


32 Sander 1968,160f. 



A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Giigit Region 


239 


or as a small hook added at the right CV). Some scribes preferred the 
first form, while others frequently switched from one form to the other. Even if a 
scribe appears to be consistent through several pages of the manuscript, there is 
absolutely no certainty that he will not write the other form later, be it because 
of a lack of concentration or for other unknovm reasons. The most important 
characteristics of the scribes’ writing of individual aksaras and diacritic vowels 
are listed in the table below. The examples and details for scribes A and C-F are 
mostly taken from folios 410-430. 

Scribe A (Figure 4) 

The main characteristic of this scribe becomes evident when examining the upper 
horizontal strokes of the aksaras, which are never straight. He begins to write 
them slightly below the line under which the aksaras are written, in all Brahmi 
scripts. Therefore the upper horizontal strokes of the aksaras are slightly ascend¬ 
ing, and the head line seems a little shaky or slightly serrated, resembling a zigzag 
(marked on Figure 4). This characteristic seems consistent and is typical for this 
scribe. The second conspicuous feature is the existence of numerous impurities 
that have often been unintentionally added when placing the pen on the birch- 
bark or putting it down (also marked on Figure 4). In contrast to the other scribes, 
the empty spaces between joined lines of certain aksaras are very narrow, prob¬ 
ably due to the use of a pen with a broad nib. This is especially obvious with ka, 



Fig- 4: Detail of 412v, by scribe A 


240 


Gudrun Melzer 


va, tha, sa and sa. Vertical strokes often taper off elegantly at their lower end, a 
characteristic shared with the scribes C and 

Scribe C (Figure 5) 

The shape of the aksaras of scribe C is often similar to scribe A, however in con¬ 
trast to scribe A, C’s handwriting is characterised by a clear and even flow of 
lines. All aksaras are carefully placed below the upper line. Quite different from 
scribe A, their heads are written as even, almost straight strokes. Unintentional 
impurities occur much more rarely and also less prominently. The alignment of 
the script is nearly vertical, but because the diacritic -i often slants to the lower 
left, it gives the false impression that all the aksaras slant slightly to the lower 
left. Most verticals taper off, as do those of scribe A. In a few cases, the same can 
be observed with the diacritic -i. 



Fig. 5: Detail of A13r, by scribe C 


33 In a number of cases it can be observed that these tapering ends are not directly the exten¬ 
sion of the vertical, but were added later with a second stroke. -1 have retained the names of the 
scribes as they occur in my dissertation. For a difficult section with regard to the scribes, called 
“section B” (folios 442-444), see Melzer 2010, 73-74. 



A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Giigit Region 


241 



Fig- 6: Detaii of A21v, by scribe D 


Scribe D (Figure 6) 

The script of scribe D is stocky and uneven. The aksaras are shorter than those 
of the other scribes, and they lack the long elegant extensions at the foot that 
are characteristic for scribes A, C and G. The vertical lines are often not paral¬ 
lel, creating an unbalanced appearance (marked on Figure 6). The head lines are 
also not as straight as those of scribes C and E, and there are many unintentional 
impurities. A further characteristic are the knotted ends of the diacritics -e, -o, -ai, 
and -au (f* nto ^ mai ^ lai ^ sau). 

Scribe E (Figure 7) 

Since the fluent script of scribe E contrasts vyith all other hands in several respects, 
it is the easiest one to recognize. The eye of the reader is caught in particular by 
the slant of the vertical strokes to the lovyer left and the rounded forms, especially 
of the diacritics -i and -i, of the subscribed -y- and also of subscribed aksaras such 
as -tha, -dha, and -va, which the other scribes write, in contrast to scribe E, at 
acute angles. The shape of ta is also noteworthy, with its extremely short left leg 
(T). The upper edge of the left leg of ta and also of the triangular shapes of bha (^) 
and ka (^) are almost horizontal. This feature is almost nonexistent in the rest of 
the manuscript. Due to the fluent character of the script, the ends of the verticals 
are not as elegantly lengthened as those of scribes A, C, F and G. In comparison 
with the other scribes, the use of the otherwise rare conjunct signs nca, nsi, ssa 



242 


Gudrun Melzer 


and ssd on folios 424-429 is conspicuous, as well as the frequent occurrence of 
the jihvdmuliya (thirty times on ff. 424-429) and upadhmanlya (five times). 



Fig- 7: Detail of 429v, by scribe E 


Scribe F (Figure 8) 

Scribe F shares many characteristics with scribe A, but there also seem to be 
some differences. At first glance his writing also seems similar to that of scribe 
C, although F’s aksaras are never lined up as carefully. This handwriting must 
still be examined more carefully to exclude the possibility that F might be the 
same person as A, using a re-cut pen or a new pen with a smaller nib. Despite of 
these uncertainties, F has been included here for the sake of completeness, even 
though his handwriting cannot yet be discussed in detail. The variant of the dia¬ 
critic -i extending downwards to the right of consonants occurs more frequently 
than with scribe A. Unintentional impurities are also visible, although they are 
less prominent than with A. The space between the aksaras is on average vdder 
than that of scribe A. In particular, he shares vdth A the uneven zigzag of the 
head line. The middle line of the -cha is nearly horizontal (^ cchd). The old ya is 
testified at least in yu (^). Type 1 of ha occurs mainly in the conjunct sign hma 
(■^ ■^). Otherwise, the type 2 of ha predominates. The subscribed -pa in tpa and 
Ipa is written without a head-mark. 


A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Giigit Region 


243 



Fig. 8: Detaii of 430r, by scribe F 



Fig. 9: Detaii of 329r, by scribe G 


Scribe G (Figure 9) 

Scribe G prefers a very thin nib. For this reason, the inner spaces betwreen joined 
lines in aksams like ka, dha, va, etc. are relatively vyide. Very thin diagonals, espe¬ 
cially those of the aksara ca ^), are often broken, as if the svdftly moved nib 


if# 




244 


Gudrun Melzer 


lost contact with the birch-bark. The triangular-shaped rightward extension rep¬ 
resenting the diacritic -a, -o or -au frequently shows an indentation on the right 
that was carefully avoided by the other scribes (e.g., gdTf pd pau yd 
^ ro rsyo). Sometimes the diacritic -d reaches down almost to the bottom of 
the consonant sign (3(f yd ^ vd). 

Tab. 1: Comparison of selected aksaras of the different scribes 


Scribe A 

Scribe C 

Scribe D 

Scribe E 

Scribe G 

-/ 





ki gi hni ci 
ji ni bhi ri 

cci ndi nri rvi 

rsi si sti 

hirbhi 

ti dhi pi rji 

ci ti ti thi 
di ni pi vi 


The different hands become especially evident in the writing of the diacritic vowel 
signs -/ and In the case of scribes A and C, the -/ reaches vertically down to around 
two-thirds of the height of the (upper) consonant sign. The final tip of the -/ of scribe 
A points only exceptionally slightly to the right (cf.//, bhi). While the alignment of 
the aksaras of scribe C is nearly vertical, the -/ shows in many cases a slant to the 
lower left. The vertical part of the -/ of scribe D also slants frequently to the lower 
left and its length is not uniform. In contrast to all the other scribes, scribe E writes 
the upper part of the -/ more rounded instead of with an acute angle, and the vertical 
part is more or less aligned along the outer curve of the consonant sign, with the 
end tapering gradually. Scribe G offers a range of variants for -/, showing differences 
in height and length. The vertical usually slants to the lower left, and in several 
instances the lower end curls to the right. This scribe also gave much more space 
between the consonant sign and the vertical of the -/. 


-/ 










kl gl ni ti 

khl ghJ jl jjl ni 

ksl jl tl pi 

cl tl thl pi bhi 

cl nl tl Urn 

nJ nl 

dl nlrn ml rl si 


11 si si hi 

rl si si svi hi 


In many cases the -/diacritic of scribes A and C does not exceed the width of the 
consonant sign. It is drawn vertically down the right side of the consonant sign only 
at the end of lines. Scribe D writes -/in several different shapes, and only very occa¬ 
sionally is it as wide as the consonant sign. It is often drawn much higher than by 
the other scribes. Scribe E usually extends the -/vertically down to the bottom of the 
consonant sign, where it ends in a thin tail slightly curved to the right. Similar forms 
are sometimes employed by scribe G. Otherwise he writes the -/in the same manner 
as scribes A and C, but less evenly. 











A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Giigit Region 


245 



Scribe A 

Scribe C 

Scribe D 

Scribe E 

Scribe G 

■cha 


% 

% 

If 



ccha 

ccha 

ccha 

ccha cchra 

ccha cchi cche 

The scribes appear to be consistent in writingthe middle stroke of the subscribed 
■cha either slanting slightly to the upper right (scribe A), horizontally (scribes E, G) 
or diagonally (scribes C, D). 

yo 




ar«ir^ 

3(3? 


ya 

ya ye 

yo ya yu ye 

yo yo yi 

yo ya 


Scribes A, C and G oniy use the modern form. Scribe D generaiiy writes the modern 
form, but in one section of around four foiios (417rl-3 up to the string-hoie, 
419r3-v, 421v, 422rl-2, 423v) he uses the oid tripartite type six times for yu, and 
once for yo. The same appiies to scribe E, who uses the traditionaiiy shaped yo four 
times foryo and once for yi, e.g. on foiios 424-429. On a rare occasion, scribe F 
uses the oid form in yu. 


-ya 







kya khye nyo 
nyo myo syo 

pyo ksyd ksye 
syo syoi 

jya dyo 

cyd tsyd pyo 

vyu syo 

pyo pyo syo /yd 
dhya nya 


The shape of the subscribed -yo aiso differs between the scribes. Scribe A aiways 
cioses it on the right side with a thick stroke. Scribe C cioses it often, aithough with 
a thin tapering iine, whiie scribe D usuaiiy cioses it with a thick stroke (but some¬ 
times ieaves it open). Scribe E ieaves it open, and since round forms are characteris¬ 
tic for this scribe, the iower part is aiso much more curved. Scribe G differs in that he 
frequentiy writes the right ciosing stroke as a straight iine, forming an acute angie. 
The other scribes write this part as softiy rounded curve. 


■pa, ■ma ^ 





fpd tpJ Ipa hma 

Ipa hma 

tpa hma 

fpd Ipa hma 

hma hma 


In conjunct signs with the subscribed consonant signs -pa and -ma, scribe A (and F) 
prefers to write them without a head-mark. Scribes E and G use the variant lacking 
a head-mark only occasionally, while scribes C and D usually write head-marks. 
Especially interesting is the use of h- in the conjunct sign hma. In general, scribes A 
and D write type 1 for h-, with type 2 is rather rare, while scribes C, E, and G use only 
type 2. 


ho 


•»(* 




ha ha ha hu hau hva hye 

ha hi hu 

ho 

ha hlhu he 


For ha, scribes A, D and F use type 1 and 2 indiscriminately, whereas scribes C, E and 
G use only type 2. 



















246 


Gudrun Melzer 


There are also many other differences in the individual aksaras. For example, 
there are two wrays the diacritic -a is attached to the consonant sign ta. Extend¬ 
ing from the right of the head-mark, it has been v^ritten either bent down 
scribes A, G) or bent up (^: scribes C, F).^'' In the case of the consonant sign sa, 
the diacritic -d is attached either to the right vertical stroke of sa C^) or to the 
left scribes C, D, G). Scribes A, E and F use both styles, although scribe E 

prefers attaching the -d to the left vertical stroke. Scribe G attaches both variants 
of -d also to the modern shaped ya (3^ 3(f). The right stroke of the triangular e 
is written vertically only by scribe A C^), while with the other scribes it slants 
(T). Scribes C and D occasionally round the upper left corner (T). The triangular¬ 
shaped subscribed consonant signs va, tha, and dha are written in acute angles 
by scribes A, C, F and G '5 ddha, ^ stho), but more rounded on the left side 
by scribe E stha, ^ vdhe, ^ nva ^ sva). Scribe D uses both variants. The size 
of the space between loops, as with ka, dha, va and sa differs from one scribe to 
the other. Scribe A has the smallest, while scribe G often lapses into the other 
extreme. Finally, the different hands can also be identified based on preferences 
in writing the virdma, although even the same scribe often uses many differ¬ 
ent shapes. The diagonal line is sometimes placed slightly above the upper line 
(4v m*, ^ t*: scribe A), although it is usually together with the upper line t* 
^ f* n* ■V m*: scribe C). In some cases it also starts above the upper line and 
extends only slightly, if at all, beneath it f*: scribe D). Scribe E attaches the 
virdma stroke to the consonant sign ('^ ^ m*). Scribe G prefers a different variant, 
with a horizontal stroke on the top m*), but he also uses other forms. This 
variant is also found occasionally in the writing of scribes A and C m*). 


5 Results of the palaeographical examinations 

It was not without reason that a great deal of stress has been given to describ¬ 
ing small details. What a palaeographically trained eye sees on an enlarged 
digital image becomes much less evident when the folio is viewed as a whole, 
or when the text is read mainly for understanding. If all our observations are 
taken together, some astonishing insights can be gleaned. First, it is probable 
that the so-called “Leit-a/csaras” ya and ha should only be considered indicators 
of a likely early date with reservation. At the time of our manuscript, most of its 
scribes (A, C, G) only used the newly introduced type ya. However, scribes D, E 


34 The same possibilities exist for the consonant sign na. This still needs to be examined 
throughout the manuscript. 



A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Giigit Region 


247 


and rarely F also used the old tripartite type in addition to the modern ya. Scribe 
D wrote the old type more often in combination with the vowel -u. With regard 
to the two types of ha, scribe A, who used the modern ya, also used the newly 
introduced type 2 of ha, but not exclusively: he also used type 1, especially in liga¬ 
tures. Similarly, scribes D and F used both types of ha. However, scribes C, E and 
G only wrote the new form, even in ligatures. Since scribe E also used the old ya, 
the only scribes who exclusively used the modern forms of ya and ha are scribes 
C and G. If one were to date possible other manuscripts produced by scribes C 
and G only on the basis of these aksaras, one would be tempted to regard them 
as later than those of the other scribes! There cannot be enough care invested in 
interpreting such fine differences. It should also be kept in mind that the influ¬ 
ence of master copies may have been stronger in some places than in others, and 
so-called transitional periods, during which later and younger shapes of certain 
aksaras were being introduced, may have lasted much longer than previously 
thought. In general, occurrences of variant aksaras can only be counted statisti¬ 
cally, and should never be used as the sole indicator for differentiating between 
several scribes or for dating. 

During the Copenhagen Workshop (2007), it was suggested that the manu¬ 
script may have been repaired at a later point in time, and that several pages 
were then replaced. This could explain the discrepancies in the preference of old 
and new shapes. However, if the distribution of the scribes throughout the manu¬ 
script is examined, it can be shown that this was certainly not the case (Table 2).^^ 

The Dlrghagama manuscript was written by at least five to six persons. They 
probably worked in part simultaneously on different sections of the manuscripts, 
taking turns in irregular intervals. A single scribe may have written portions of 
only a few lines, or up to thirty-three successive folios. For example, in a section 
of twenty-one folios (410-430), which was written by five different people, the 
scribes changed not less than ten times. 

Every scribe seems to have used his own pen, as can be gleaned from the dif¬ 
ferent nib widths. The exact composition of the ink also varies in the manuscript. 
While the ink on folios 405-412 of scribe A, for example, is very dark, the ink of 


35 This table is not yet complete. To attribute scribes to all of the leaves, an edition of the entire 
Dlrghagama is first needed. Many folios are damaged on the left side and thus, the pagination 
is lost. Included in this table are only those leaves whose sequence and scribe is quite certain. 
The first four numbers in square brackets refer to the numbering on the black and white photo¬ 
graphs where the pagination is not preserved. I am grateful to Takamichi Fukita for sharing his 
reconstructions of the highly fragmented folios of the first part of the manuscript. Blair Silverlock 
kindly informed me of his identification of scribe C for folios 340v-341r. The attribution of folios 
330-384 is difficult because of the inferior quality of the available photographs. 



248 


Gudrun Melzer 


Tab. 2: Distribution of the different scribes throughout the Dirghagama manuscript 


Scribe A/F Scribe C 

Scribe D 

Scribe A/F 

Scribe C Scribe D 

Scribe E 

Scribe G 


[32R] 


284v 



[32verso] 



287-319 




OAR] 




327-340r 

[34verso] 



340v-341r? 



80-95 



341V-354? 



96-118r? 




355-368 



262r 


369 



262v 


370-376 




269 



377 



271 



378 




272r 


379-389 



272v 



390 




273r 

405-412 




TTiM 



413-416 




274r 


417rl-3 

(string-hole) 



ni\M 



417r3 (string- 
hole)-419r2 




275r 


419r3-v 



275m 



420-421r 




277r 


421v-422r2 



277m 



422r3-423r 




278r 


423v 



278v 




424-429 



279r 

430-441 




279m 


443 





281-282r 


445 



282v 


446-449 





283r 



450-451 


283v-284r 


452-454? 

































































A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Giigit Region 


249 


the folios 424-429 of scribe E seems to have been thinner and more transparent, 
which also allowed for a more fluid handwriting. 

Scribes C and G, who are most consistent in using the new forms for ya and 
ha, sometimes start on the verso of a folio, or end on a recto whose verso has been 
written by somebody else. It is therefore impossible to consider these parts later 
restorations, even if one disregards the fact that the manuscript does not show 
any traces of use. The few interlinear additions written with another pen (or with 
the turned edge of the same nib?) were most probably written by the same scribes, 
and surely not long after the folio or the manuscript was completed. 

As can also be observed on the Vinayavastvdgama manuscript from Giigit, 
on several pages, towards the end of the last line there are much wider spaces 
between the aksams (Figure 10), or they are vnritten much closer together than 
usual (Figure 1).^® This indicates that the folio’s text was copied in close agree¬ 
ment with the layout of the original, especially with regard to the end of the 
pages.Occasionally, line fillers (Figures lOb-c, f) conclude lines where the text 
has ended before the right margin.^® In a few other cases, the last aksams have 
been deleted and are written on the following page (Figure lOc-e). This was prob¬ 
ably meant to conceal the fact that the last line ended earlier than the right margin 
of the original.^® If it is assumed that several scribes worked on the manuscript 
simultaneously, ending pages or folios in close correspondence to the original 
would have been of utmost importance. However, it is uncertain whether every 
page corresponded in this manner, or only some of them. Also, the script itself 
provides a good means for concealing omissions in the text, or attempts to keep to 
the lines of the original. For example, if needed it is possible to write certain con¬ 
sonant signs, for example na, with the vowel diacritic -o twice as wide as normal. 
The horizontal extensions can be either attached to the right and to the left (^), 
or to the right and on the top ('3^), or, much rarer, only on the top (^). 

One of the most surprising discoveries is the teamwork of scribes C and D, at 
least in two sections of the manuscript (folios 262-284 and 413-423). Very often, 
one scribe wrote the recto while the other was responsible for the verso. In the 


36 For examples from the Vinayavastvagama manuscript, see the folios from the Sanghabhedava- 
stu: 349, 384v, 408v, 430v, 431v, 476v, from GBM; 682, 712, 715, 727, 745, 754, 791, 876, 899 and 1021. 
For the other extreme, see 419r, 423v (Dlrghdgama) and GBM 959 (Vinayavastvdgama). 

37 Hartmann 2002a, 145. 

38 Line fillers can also be found in many other Buddhist manuscripts; see, e.g., Sander 1988,547. 
For examples from the Vinayavastvdgama manuscript from Giigit, see folios 72v (GBM 727), 282v 
(GBM 877), 308v (GBM 929), 333r (Sanghahhedavastu). 

39 See, e.g., folios 404v, 417v, 419v and 425v. For an example from the Vinayavastvdgama manu¬ 
script, see folio 293v (Yamagiwa 2001, 78). 



250 - Gudrun Melzer 



Fig. 10: Examples of text justification on the folio: (a) 392v7-8 (b) 396v7-8 (c) 40Av7-8 (d) 
417V7-8 (e) A25v7-8 (f) 427v7-8 

latter section, scribe D has written two and a half lines on 417r. His partner C 
finished the rest of 417r and continued until 419r2. Scribe D then took his turn 
from 419r3 and continued to the verso. Scribe C wrote 420-421r and 422r3-423r, 
while scribe D completed 421v-422r2 and 423v. How can we imagine their working 










A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the digit Region 


251 


process? Were they sitting next to each other, with one writing half a folio and then 
passing it on to his colleague to complete? In this case, the relevant folio(s) of the 
master copy would also have to be passed on (and turned over). When the second 
scribe finished his part, he would have placed the finished folios aside, while in 
the meantime the next folio(s) may have already been waiting for him. If in such 
a situation the first scribe did not finish exactly with the end of the page of the 
master copy, he would have had to show his colleague where to continue. It is easy 
to imagine how chaotic and confusing this might become. And indeed, most prob¬ 
ably did become. For example, the last folio by scribe A after folio 412 and also the 
two subsequent folios (by other scribes) have been mistakenly inserted into a later 
part of the manuscript, where they were numbered according to their new context 
as 443, 442 and 444, when the final pagination was added.'"’ The text of folio 444 
continues on the folio paginated as 413, in the hand of scribe C. How exactly the 
misplacement of the three folios happened cannot be ascertained, but it might be 
explained by the fact that several scribes were working simultaneously. 

Another imaginable working procedure of the two scribes C and D would be 
that they switched places several times (for whatever reason). This would have 
had the advantage that single folios could stay in their context and would not 
have to be passed around. In any case, the actual procedure cannot be recon¬ 
structed with absolute certainty. But the manuscript evidences that scribal errors 
are much more frequent in parts where the scribes changed often. This leads us 
back to the starting point; those passages that are highly corrupt. 

The unclear passage of the Prsthapdlasutm mentioned above briefly 
(ed. 36.16), in which it appears that the opponents of the Buddha, the parivra- 
jakas, anticipate a later argument of the Buddha where no parallel for such an 
anticipation can be found in the Pali or Chinese versions, happens to fall directly 
at the break at the end of the two and a half lines written by scribe D on 417rl-3 
and the beginning of the work by scribe C.'*^ The next exchange of scribes occurs 
at 419r3, with scribe D. This is also where one of the most corrupted passages 
starts (as referred to above, ed. 36.49). Scribe D apparently had no context for his 
portion of the text, and therefore he has even mistaken aksaras that are otherwise 
rarely misread, such as sa and ma {mohasatya-, “truth of delusion” instead of 
moham anya-, “everything else is false”, etc.). The switching of folios between 
scribes that follows, however, went on without larger problems. 

As enigmatic as the working praxis of this scribe duo may be, a similar 
case has been noticed by Lore Sander for a central Asian manuscript of the 


40 The attribution of folios 442 and 444 is not yet settled. 

41 Scribe C continued in the middle of the sentence. The error might, of course, already have 
been in the master copy, but the change of scribes is suggestive. 



252 


Gudrun Melzer 


Siddhasdra from Dunhuang,'*^ and it is certain that there are further cases still 
waiting to be discovered. It is also certain that the voluminous manuscript of the 
Vinayavastvdgama from Gilgit was written by more than one person. Even in the 
poor photos of the facsimile edition, it is possible to differentiate at least one 
scribe from the others, because of his obvious characteristics as well as his simi¬ 
larities to scribe E of the Dlrghdgama manuscript. In the Vinayavastvdgama, this 
scribe wrote two parts of four folios, and one part of fifteen and a half folios.''^ 

In general, information about scribes of manuscripts and inscriptions is rare 
in Gilgit. For all the known Gilgit manuscripts, the names of only two scribes 
are mentioned in colophons; however, both belong to an earlier period of man¬ 
uscript production that is not being discussed here.'*'* Their ethnic affiliation 
remains mostly unsolved. Oskar von Hiniiber has suggested that Saken scribes 
were responsible for one of the manuscripts he has studied.''^ But until now, the 
manuscript of the Dlrghdgama has not yet revealed any clues about the ethnic or 
linguistic affiliation of the scribes. Nonetheless, as described above it is possible 
to learn something about their working praxis. 


6 A second pagination system 

Thus far, we have only considered the style of the script and the shape of particu¬ 
lar aksaras. But another interesting detail becomes visible on enlarged images: 
Many folios contain a very tiny and sometimes almost invisible number that 
differs from the main page number and which was written either to the extreme 
left or right (Figure 11). Since the margins are frequently damaged, not all of these 
numbers are preserved. However, there are also many folios of the manuscript 
that do not appear to have been numbered in this way. Several sequences of 
numbers exist, starting in irregular intervals with number 1 and running up to 
33 at the most. These numbers were not inserted for the benefit of readers of the 
manuscript. It rather appears that the scribes have marked their respective por¬ 
tions in this manner before the final page numbers were added. Thus, scribe C 


42 Sander 1988, 547-548. 

43 These similarities do not necessarily imply that the scribe is identical with E. Further re¬ 
search is required. See folios 258-274r (GBM 828-860), 294-297 (GBM 900-907), 340v-344v 
(Sanghabhedavastu). 

44 For the two scribes of the Ajitasenavydkarana and a Samghdtasutra (dated in the year 3 of 
presumably the Laukika Era, 627128 CE) see von Hiniiber 1980, 63-64, 69-72; 2004, 25-27 (Nr. 10), 
78-80 (Nr. 39B). 

45 Von Hiniiber 1980, 51; 1983, 58-59; 1988, 43. 



A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Giigit Region 


253 


has marked his portion of folios 287-319 with numbers 1-33. Scribe A marked 
his folios 370-376 with numbers 1-7.'“’ Scribe D numbered folios 379-389 up to 
number 11.''^ Interestingly, C and D, who were identified above as working in close 
cooperation, applied a single joint numbering system starting on folio 413 and 
ending on folio 423 with number ll.'*® This is the part of the text that directly 
follows the vnrongly placed folios 442-444, which lack such numbers. It can be 
assumed that using these additional numbers was originally meant to prevent 
such confusions. Scribe E numbered his folios 424-429 from 1 to 6. Scribe F (?) 
numbered his portion of folios 430-441 from 1 to 12,'*® and finally, scribe E num¬ 
bered his last portion of the two folios 450-451 accordingly with numbers 1-2. 
All scribes but E wrote the numerals in the extreme left margin next to lines 7-8. 
Scribe E wrote them in the right margin next to the same lines. 

In contrast to the main page numbers written according to the old system of 
addition, with special symbols for twenty, thirty, a hundred, etc., for the small 
numbers of the individual scribes, the newly introduced place-value system was 
used, with symbols for the numbers one to nine, and a small circle symbolising 
zero. This system, along with the shapes of the numerals, became widely popular 
in Indian and Southeast Asian inscriptions during the 7* century, and by the 
middle of the 9‘*' century in inscriptions it had replaced the old system. It also 
occurs in the inscriptions of the Palola Sahis of Giigit and their contemporaries 
from the second half of the 7* century onwards.^” Until today, it is still not pre¬ 
cisely known when and where this new system started.The shape of the numer¬ 
als can be explained for the most part as being a very cursive and economical 
variant of writing Indian Brahmi numerals. It is quite different from the ornate 
type of letter numerals used for paginating Buddhist manuscripts in the numeri¬ 
cal system of addition. 

The numerals on the Giigit manuscripts have been studied by Hanns-Peter 
Frentz. He has also referred to manuscripts that were not published in the fac¬ 
simile edition, especially those from Srinagar. His material clearly shows that 
pagination according to the old system of addition continued to be used in Giigit 
long after the place-value system is found in inscriptions. Thus far, only three 


46 The margin containing numeral 1 is not preserved. 

47 Only the numeral 10 and part of 11 are preserved. There are also traces on 383r and 383r vis¬ 
ible. Regrettably, the available photographs of the Hirayama Collection do not enable us to see 
such small details clearly. 

48 The last folio lacks a number because the margin is damaged. 

49 Only the numerals on the first and last folio are preserved. 

50 For the inscriptions, see appendix 1. 

51 For this system in general, see Frentz 1987, 66-68 and Salomon 1998, 61-63. 



Gudrun Melzer 


254 - 




% I 

‘ ^ 
■A^~ 


310r 414r 415r 417r 418r 

24 2 3 5 6 

Fig. 11: Examples of a secondary pagination system, beneath the main folio numbers 


exceptions are known.When comparing the shapes of the numerals of these 
three manuscripts with the tiny numerals of the Dlrghagama manuscript, several 
differences are noticeable. It seems that during the first hundred to two hundred 
years after the introduction of the new system, a stylistic development took place 
that has hardly been explored. On one hand, the numerals of the Dlrghagama 
manuscript show similarities with the medieval predecessors of our so-called 
Arabian numerals. On the other hand, not all of them can easily be found in pal- 
aeographic tables for ancient Indian scripts. 


52 Frentz 1987, 6. The first of the three exceptions are fifteen folios of a Samghdtasutra written in 
probably an early type of GB2/PS (Ser. no. 39; Frentz 1987, 125-126; GBM 2306-2325, 2326-2335). 
The second one comprises four leaves of the Ddrikdgdthds (Frentz 1987,147; GBM 3229-3236). And 
finally, there are a few folios out of a total of 121 folios from another Samghdtasutra in early GB2/ 
PS from Srinagar (“Manuscript D” in von Hiniiber 1980, 69-72; 1983, 53; 2004, 25-27, 31, Nr. 10 
[previously “manuscript A” in von Hiniiber 1979, 351]; see also Frentz 1987,127-130). In the latter 
manuscript, both numeral systems can be found, in alternating series. 

53 In addition to the important but unpublished study by Frentz, some Gilgit numerals are also 
reproduced in Sander 1968, Tafel 26, and Wille 1990, 20. Salomon 1998, 61 mentioned the dif¬ 
ficulties in reading the numerals of the new system correctly. 







A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Giigit Region 


255 


It appeared therefore advisable to collect evidence of early place-value 
system numerals from the larger Giigit area. The follovdng table includes all 
the Dlrghagama numerals, the fevy Giigit examples studied by Frentz,^'* and the 
numerals found in inscriptions.^^ Recently, Klaus Wille and Masanori Shono also 
discovered six tiny numerals wrritten in addition to the main pagination on a fevy 
fragments of a Pratimoksasutra and a Vinayavibhanga manuscript belonging to 
the same find as the Dlrghagama.^^ Unfortunately, the quality of the facsimile 
edition of the Giigit manuscripts is not adequate to ascertain if perhaps similar 
numbers can be found in the Vinayavastvdgama manuscript. For comparison, 
several forms of the numerals of the famous Bakhshali manuscript, a text on 
mathematics, are also included in the table. 

The numerals of the Dlrghagama were vyritten in haste and vyithout special 
care. The shape of the 4 in the Dlrghagama manuscript is especially notevyorthy, 
since it differs from all the other examples vyith its simple economic form and the 
loop at the bottom.^® In general, the shapes of the Dlrghagama numerals appear 
to be more cursive than the numerals in most inscriptions or in the later Bakhshali 
manuscript. This is also testified by the simpler vyriting of the numeral 5, vyith no 
embellishment at the upper part. It is possible that such differences correspond 
to geographical or chronological differences. From the time of the Dlrghagama 
manuscript onvyards, however, the shapes did not alter greatly, remaining basi¬ 
cally the same in the Sarada script of the region even until recently.^® 


54 Frentz 1987, 66-70. 

55 The inscriptions are referred to as they are numbered in appendix I of this article. 

56 These manuscripts are written in GB 2/PS. I am grateful to Klaus Wille and Masanori Shono 
for sharing their discoveries. 

57 The examples of the numerals are based on the facsimiles in Hayashi 1995. This birch-bark 
manuscript was found in 1881 by a peasant in the village of Bakhshali, situated around 80 km 
northeast of Peshawar (Hayashi 1995, 3). It is now kept in the Bodleian Library of Oxford (Ms. 
Sansk. d. 14). Regarding the date, Hayashi proposes the 8'*'-12*^ centuries (ibid.) or the 12'*' cen¬ 
tury as the upper limit (p. 24). He does not mention the manuscript’s similarity to the late Giigit 
manuscripts. The 12'*' century is favoured by Kaul Deambi (1982, 67,82; 2008,51). In a short entry 
in Walker/Clapinson/Forbes 2004, 137, a date of the 10'*'-12'*’ centuries is given. For supporting 
palaeographical arguments for this date, see appendix II. The manuscript was already known to 
Biihler (1896, 78-79, Tafel IX), who referred to it in his palaeographical tables. 

58 Cf. Frentz 1987, 21, variant 1-2. 

59 For the numerals in the Sarada script of later manuscripts, see, e.g. Slaje 1993, 46. The tables 
of Kaul Deambi (1982, table 7; 2008, table 6) mainly concern the inscriptional evidence. However, 
they are very incomplete for the early period and contain some obvious errors. 



256 


Gudrun Melzer 


Tab. 3: Place-value number system In manuscripts and Inscriptions 



Scribes of the Dirghagama 








Pratirnoksasutra / 
Vinayavibhanga 


C 

C 

C 

C 

A 

D 

D 

C+D 

E 

A/F 

A/F E 


1 

N 






(l)ia 



'i 




(287?) 

297 

307 




389 

413 

424 

430 

(A50) 


2 














(288?) 

298 

308 


371 



414 



441 451 

24[9] 

3 


■'V 


[33]‘= 

:l 



i. 






389/90 

29[9] 

309 

319 

372 



415 




240 

4 


Va 




[4]a 



[Aja 






300 

310 


373 

382 



427 



251 

5 


N'k 

vyv 


vA 

[5]a 



\ 





291 

(301?) 

311 


374 

383 


417 

428 



242 

6 

A 







6 




-scT 


292 

(302?) 

312 


375 



[Aid 8) 

(A)29 



520 

7 

n 

A 












(29)3 

(3)03 

313 


37[6] 








8 

1 













294 

(304?) 

314 









- 

9 


NCr 

- 











295 

(305?) 

315 





421 





0 



- 



*»• 








[296] 

306 

(316) 



388 


422?^ 






a Only partly preserved, b Probably misspelt, c Fragment on folio 424r. d The lower part Is damaged. 


7 Sanskritisation and punctuation 

If one imagines a text in a European language with half of the punctuation and 
most of the capitalization lacking, as well as some punctuation marks appearing 
in the wrong places, it becomes clear that for many passages, different possibili¬ 
ties in understanding would arise. One would most likely puzzle over the meaning 
of the text, even if one were generally familiar with it. A similar situation is found 
in certain prose passages in Indian manuscripts containing canonical Buddhist 
texts of the (Mula-)Sarvastivadins. Although canonical Buddhist texts are highly 
formulaic and contain numerous repetitions, difficulties in understanding may 















A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Giigit Region 


257 


Inscriptions 




Giigit Mss. (Frentz) 

Bakhshali Manu- 










script 


1 

9 

Z> 


0 

0 

o 

5 

•i 

TOO 

2. 

3. 

7. 

11. 

12. 

15. 












& 


2. 

6. 

6. 

8. 

9. 






3 

3. 








§ % 


9 






€ 



% ^ ^ ^ % 

2. 

3. 

4. 

7. 








U 

M, 


H ^ m; 


t/ 

St) 


1. 

4. 

5. 

5. 

12. 

12. 13. 13. 15. 












s 


Vs ^ ^ ^ 

6. 

7. 








(V 

1. 

3. 






0. 


n 0^ a 


T 

z 

z 



T 




7. 

8. 

15. 

15. 






S 

(5^ 

S) 


<3 

(J 




«5i <3) Cl 

2. 

9. 

11. 

12. 

14. 

14. 





(T 

• 





• 

• 



1. 

9. 










arise when the text contains unusual phrases. It can be assumed that if a text 
was not clearly structured and therefore not immediately accessible to a reader, 
scribal errors and misunderstandings of the original may have occurred more fre¬ 
quently, especially when the tradition of the scribes themselves was already quite 
distant from the texts they were copying. 

The state of the text we find in manuscripts such as the Dlrghagama may in 
part be explained by the process of copying and its sanskritisation over a longer 
period of time. Originally, Buddhist texts were transmitted orally. But they were 
also written down from an early period onwards, and these manuscripts were 















258 


Gudrun Melzer 


copied again and again.®” However, the tradition of transmitting texts orally did 
not cease. 

Over time, the language of Buddhist texts gradually changed. When Sanskrit 
as a universal language for Indian literature became widely established, some 
Buddhist schools started to adjust their texts to this language, without translat¬ 
ing them per se. The Mahasamghikas, for example, transmitted their texts in 
a hybrid form of Sanskrit (Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit). The Sarvastivadins (and 
Mulasarvastivadins), however, rendered their texts in a language that resembles 
classical Sanskrit much more closely. Still, the language of one of the oldest 
Sarvastivada manuscripts identified so far is very different from the “classical” 
Sanskrit of later Sarvastivada texts.Many irregularities in Buddhist Sanskrit 
texts can be seen in connection with this gradual process of sanskritisation, 
even in late manuscripts such as the Dlrghagama. Who would have been respon¬ 
sible for the sanskritisation of such texts if not those who wrote and copied the 
manuscripts? Final consonants of case endings, for example, were added, and 
the sandhi was adjusted as required in classical Sanskrit. Since this was never 
done consistently, the peculiar situation arises in which correct Sanskrit endings 
stand alongside forms that by the time of the Dlrghagama manuscript must have 
already been regarded as antiquated or incorrect. Thus, an editor of such texts 
easily finds him- or herself in a moral dilemma. 

A typical feature of Buddhist texts that originated in middle Indian languages 
is that the words were often not connected by means of sandhi. Such incomplete 
sandhi is also testified in many places in the Dlrghagama manuscript, in particu¬ 
lar between the members of enumerations or at syntactical breaks, especially at 
the end of sentences.®^ In many other cases, however, at a certain point in the 
transmission of such manuscripts, the scribes adjusted such occurrences accord¬ 
ing to the general rules of Sanskrit, whereby they did not insert punctuation 
marks at the end of sentences. In examples where the same text is found in other 
manuscripts of the same school, but from a different place or period, most of the 
differences concern complete or incomplete sandhi and punctuation marks. The 
loss of an incomplete sandhi at the end of a sentence requires strong efforts on the 


60 The most ancient manuscripts known so far date to the P* century BCE. 

61 See Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya 1999-2000, part 1-5. 

62 The oldest manuscripts written in Brahmi have spaces between words or word groups (al¬ 
though not consistently). See, e.g. an early Prajndpdramitd manuscript (Sander 2000,2, pis. 1.1-7; 
2002, pis. IV.1-3) and an early commentary (Schmithausen 2002, pis. XIII.1-3) dating from the 
end of the Kusana period to the beginning of the Gupta period, or the slightly later Bairam Ali 
manuscripts. Such spaces can also be found in some of the oldest Indian inscriptions, e.g. the 
Asoka pillar inscription in Lumbini. Later, in subsequent manuscript copies, the spaces have 
been removed, although punctuation marks have not necessarily been inserted. 



A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Giigit Region 


259 


part of the reader. The less familiar he is with an archaic text, the more difficulties 
he will have to understand its contents. Herein most certainly also lies one of the 
problems that scribes of the 8**’ century had to face. 


8 Historical aspects 

A specific characteristic of the Dlrghagama manuscript is its numerous scribal 
errors. They possibly hint to historical factors. The manuscript was surely never 
read, and the string holes look new and unused. Like most manuscripts of the 
(Mula-)Sarvastivada tradition from Giigit and Central Asia, it has no colophon 
specifying donors.®^ Thus, the manuscript cannot be related to the “cult of the 
book” of Mahayana Buddhism, or the related “business” of manuscript pro¬ 
duction. Many of the later manuscripts of famous Mahayana texts, such as the 
Astasahasrikd Prajhaparamita, were proofread many times and meticulously cor¬ 
rected, as can be seen in many manuscripts from Eastern India dating mostly 
from the century onwards. It is likely that our manuscript of the Dirghagama 
was a copy meant for the book shelf of a (Mula-)Sarvastivada monastery, and 
that it was presumably not intended to be used in connection with a curriculum. 
There are also other indicators that the literature of the Agamas did not enjoy 
widespread popularity in the religious life of the S*** century. (Mula-)Sarvastivada 
texts are largely missing in Eastern India, although from inscriptions it is known 
that the Mulasarvastivadins resided there. In all probability, the decision of the 
Tibetans to translate only the Vinaya and not the Agamas is based on the relative 
importance these texts had in India at the time. The Agama texts were no longer 
urgently needed.*’'* 


63 See Sander 1988, 534. The vinaya text from Bairam Alt (SI Merv 1) is an exception in this 
respect: The Sarvastivada patron named Mitrasresthin wishes his own benefit as well as that 
of others, and he also hopes that the ignorance of the scribe will perish. As seen in the pub¬ 
lished photograph, the text reads: likhavitam mitrasresthind vinayaddharena sarwastivddina 
atmahita-.parahitdya : namo sarwabuddhdna || yendyam likhata sdstram tasya ajhdnaprahdnaya 
bhavatu || * || (folio 21v2-4; cf. Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya 1999-2000 (part 5), 15, fig. 4; Das Lo- 
tossutra and seine Welt, cat. 29). Hartmann (2004b, 127, n. 21) has observed that this is the only 
example of a Sarvastivada text in which the name of the school is mentioned. 

64 Although a Tibetan translation of the Dirghdgama is mentioned in the dBa bzhed (Wangdu et 
al., 2000, 89), not a trace of it has been found. A late example for the interest in the Dirghdgama 
is testified by the Abhidharmakosadkopdyikd of the Nepalese scholar Samathadeva (Zhi gnas 
lha). The commentary, which is only preserved in Tibetan translation, abounds with quotations 
from the Agamas, including the Dirghdgama. It therefore represents a rich source for Agama 
texts, which often lack an Indie original. However, many passages in the Tibetan translation are 



260 


Gudrun Melzer 


In conclusion it may be said that even though the condition of the text as 
preserved in the Dlrghagama manuscript occasionally causes difficulties for an 
editor, it represents a valuable witness that testifies to the interplay of problems 
inherited through the texts’ transmission, the astonishing working methods of 
the scribes, as well as some historical aspects such as the lack of interest on the 
Indian subcontinent of the 8* century in Agama literature. In addition, we have 
gained some interesting insights into palaeographical matters concerning manu¬ 
scripts from the greater Gilgit area of this period. 


Appendix I: Inscriptions from the greater Gilgit 
region containing numerals of the place-value 
system*' 

1. Metal image of a Buddha in dharmacakrapravartanamudra from the year 70 
((VCr”), Asvayuja su di 5 (C|^), donated by Ratnacitti.'’’’ Fussman has read “8” 
instead of “5”, probably because of the similarity with the 8 of the old system 
of addition; however, in comparison with all examples from the new system, 
5 seems more likely. 

2. Metal image of a Buddha in varadamudra from the year 92 (15'^). Bhadrapada 
su di 14 (')9), donated by Veyatyasa (after von Hinuber).®^ The reading of the 4 
is not certain because with the loop on the right side it differs from all knovm 
forms. 

3. Stone inscription in Hatun from the year 47 Pausya sukla 13 3).*^® 


incomprehensible. The numerous corruptions may be due in part to misunderstandings on the 
part of the translators; many seem to have originated in the Sanskrit manuscript used for the 
translation, or even in the original work of the author (including incorrect titles). See Melzer 
2010, 315-317. 

65 It is generally assumed that the given date represents the Laukika era, even though it is not 
explicitly named. In the dates of this era, the hundreds and thousands are usually not men¬ 
tioned. Dating is therefore based on the interpretation of palaeographic and stylistic character¬ 
istics. 

66 September 594, after Fussman. Cf. Paul 1986, 172-190, pi. 83; Fussman 1993, 29-31, no. 6.2, 
pis. 18-22. 

67 August 616, after Fussman, 716, after Siudmak.. Cf. Fussman 1993,31-32, no. 6.3, pi. 23-27; von 
Hiniiber 2004,151-152; Siudmak 2013, 329-330, pi. 150. 

68 19 December 671, after C. Vogel in von Fliniiber. Cf. Fussman 1993, 4-19; von Fhniiber 2004, 
48-52, Nr. 22, Abb. 18-19. Line 5 of the inscription contains the number 32 000. 



A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Giigit Region 


261 


4. Metal image of a crowned Buddha in dharmacakrapravartanamudrd from the 
year 54 (H ^), donated by Surabhi.®® 

5. Metal image of a Buddha in samadhimudra seated between two stupas, from 
the year 55 (^^), donated by Sakyabhiksu Bhadradharma/” 

6. Stone inscription in Danyor from the year 62 Phalguna su di 2 

7. Rock inscription of Rajaputra Tarama (Hodar South) from the year 68 ^), 

Marga<sirsa> su di 14 

8. Metal image of a Maitreya from the year 82 (^^), donated by Samavati, now 
at the Jo khang in Lhasa/^ 

9. Metal image of a crowned Buddha in dharmacakrapmvartanamudra seated 
between two stupas, from the year 90 ((5\ ’), Vaisakha su di 2 (^), donated by 
Samkarasena and his wife Devasri (Asia Society New York, Mr. and Mrs. John 
D. Rockefeller 3"^ Collection of Asian Art, 1979.44).^'* 

10. Metal image of a crowned Buddha in bhumisparsamudra and holding a book, 
from the year 90, Vaisakha su di 8, donated by Nandivikramadityanandi 
(Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; 86.120).^^ The number of the day 
cannot be read on the published photograph. 

11. Metal image of the crowned Buddha Maitreya from the year 91 ((J| n), donated 
by Nandivikramadityanandi (Pritzker Collection).^® 

12. Stone image of the “mahdsnvajrasana”, the Buddha in bhumisparsamudra in 
the Maravijaya episode, from the year 95 (^''\), Vaisakha sukla 15 (0 '^), 


69 678/9, after von Hiniiber. Cf. von Hiniiber 2004,168-169, Abb. 35. 

70 679/80 or 779/80, after von Hiniiber; quoted in von Schroeder. Cf. von Schroeder 2001, 114- 
115, no. 22A-B. 

71 19 February 687, after C. Vogel in von Hiniiber. Cf. von Hiniiber 2004, 52-57, Nr. 23, Abb. 20-23. 

72 28 November 692, after C. Vogel in von Hiniiber. Cf. von Hiniiber 2004, 66-68, Nr. 32A, Abb. 
31. 

73 706/7, after von Hiniiber. Cf. Henss 1996, 61, fig. 9; von Schroeder 2001, 176-180, no. 52A-D; 
von Hiniiber 2003, 36-37, fig. 3; von Hiniiber 2004, 31-36, Nr. 12, Abb. 4; Siudmak 2013, 312-314, 
pi. 143. 

74 20 April 714, after C. Vogel in von Hiniiber 2004. Cf. Pal 1975,106-107, pis. 30a, b; von Schroe¬ 
der 1981, 118-119, no. 16B; Fussman 1993, 43-47, no. 6.6, pi. 31; Reedy 1997, 157-158, K50; Pal 
2003,106-107, no. 63; Huntington/Bangdel 2003, 84-85, no. 9; von Hiniiber 2003, 37, fig. 4; von 
Hiniiber 2004, 39-40,154-156, Nr. 15, Abb. 6; Siudmak 2013, 317-319, pi. 145 (mirror image!). 

75 26/27 April 714, after C. Vogel in von Hiniiber. Cf. Pal 1975,108-109, pi. 31; von Schroeder 1981, 
118, no. 16C; Postel/Neven/Mankodi 1985, 86, 252-254, figs. 103, 411 (only here are all the faces 
of the inscription published); Fussman 1993, 39-43, no. 6.5, pi. 30; von Hiniiber 2004, 38-39, 
153-154, Nr. 14, Abb. 5; Siudmak 2013, 315-317, pi. 144. 

76 23 April 715, after von Hiniiber. See Pal 2003, 108-109, no. 64 (mirror image!); von Hiniiber 
2003, 37-39, fig. 5; von Hiniiber 2004, 40-42, 156-158, Nr. 16, Abb. 7; Siudmak 2013, 319-322, pi. 
146. 



262 


Gudrun Melzer 


donated by Sukhavarman (National Museum, New Delhi, inv. 82.4a)/^ This 
new reading of the date is the result of comparing the numerals with the 
other examples listed in table 3, and appears to be more satisfying than the 
reading for the year as 5 (Fussman) or 15 (Paul). 

13. Metal image of a Buddha in dharmacakrapravartanamudrd, donated by 
Ratnapalasvami (George Ortiz Collection).^® The weight of the image is 
incised on the pedestal, namely pala 55 (*( K,). 

14. Metal image of the Buddha Visvabhu in dharmacakmpravartanamudra from 
the year 99 ((? (j), donated by the Sakyabhiksu Acintamittra and Viryamittra.^® 

15. Metal image of a Buddha in dharmacakrapravartanamudrd (Dangkhar 
Monastery) from the year 88 (^7), mdrga<sirsa> su di 15 ("5^), donated by 
Vikavarman.®” 


Appendix II: Towards a more precise definition of 
GB 2/PS in manuscripts 

In the Gilgit region, the script GB2/PS became widespread in the latter half of the 
7* century during the reign of Navasurendradityanandi.®^ Most probably, from 
the beginning it included the new shapes for the aksaras ya and ha, which are 
not found in GB 1.®^ Nevertheless, even after the introduction of the new script, 
the old shapes of both aksaras enjoyed a long life in manuscripts, especially as 
part of conjunct signs in the case of ha, and in combination with vowel diacritics 
in the case of ya. If the radiocarbon dating for the Dlrghdgama manuscript (DA) 
can be trusted, these shapes were still being written by copyists in the second 
half of the 8* century or even later. However, their usage was dependent on the 
individual scribes. While some consistently wrote using the new shapes, others 


77 Ca. 719 CE and not 639 (Pal and Paul) or 629 (Fussman) or 729/739 (Siudmak 2013). For pho¬ 
tographs, see, e.g., Paul 1986,159-172, pis. 80, 80a, 80b; Siudmak 1990, figs. 1-2; Fussman 1993, 
32-39, no. 6.4, pi. 28-29; Pal 2003, 92, fig. 2; Siudmak 2013, 344-351, pi. 159. Fussman has sug¬ 
gested reading the first numeral as the siddham symbol, which would make no sense between 
the abbreviation sam for “year” and the actual numeral. 

78 Weldon/Singer 1999, 38-39, pi. 3; Siudmak 2013, 272-276, pi. 126. 

79 723/4 or 823/4, after von Hiniiber. Cf. von Hiniiber 2007, 40-41, pi. 4-5. 

80 712, after Laurent 2013,191. See Laurent 2013, figs. 194-197, 200-201. 

81 For details, see notes 8,10. 

82 The Hatun inscription is one of the earliest datable witnesses of the new shapes (von 
Hiniiber 2004, 48-52, Nr. 22, Abb. 18, dated to 671 CE), as are the protective charms for 
Navasurendradityanandi (von Hiniiber 2004,14-16, Nr. 4a-c, Abb. 1-2). 



A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Giigit Region 


263 


occasionally copied the old shapes. Therefore, alone the presence of these old 
forms offers no help in deducing a more precise dating, unless the entire manu¬ 
script contains only these forms. 

The script has a calligraphic variant, which is usually found in religious man¬ 
uscripts. A more cursive style of everyday writing is encountered in inscriptions 
(on stone and metal images) and sometimes also in manuscripts, in particular in 
additions, colophons and non-religious texts.®'' 

In the calligraphic variant, two sub-groups can be distinguished. The first 
one, which I call Type A, is represented by most Giigit manuscripts written in GB 
2/PS, most notably the Vinayavastvdgama and the DA. The second one (Type B) 
differs from Type A in its more fluid appearance. The most obvious difference 
concerns the subscribed -y-, which stays at the bottom of the upper consonant 
sign in Type A (^ cya, £ tya), but in Type B is sometimes elongated on the right 
side and drawn at the top of the (upper) consonant sign (^ cya, 8 ) tya).®^ In a few 
manuscripts, the vowel diacritic is attached to the -y- instead of the upper conso¬ 
nant sign (^ vyo, ^ syd).®® This characteristic is very common, e.g., in eastern 
Indian Siddhamatrka documents. Type B may only have flourished for a relatively 
short period in Giigit, since it had no impact on the later development of Sarada 
script. Both types (A and B) are found in all regions where GB 2/PS was used: 
Giigit, Afghanistan, as well as for a few manuscripts from Central Asia. 

A latest time limit for GB 2/PS has not yet been clearly defined, because no 
single manuscript has been discovered that is safely datable to the 9'^^ century. 
However, a birch-bark codex from Kashmir that is preserved in the Tibet Museum 
in Lhasa may offer a clue.®^ It contains several tantric texts by different authors. 


83 In a mahdraksd added at the end of the Hayagnvavidyd that is written entirely in GB 1, the 
scribe, who has a preference for the old variants, writes old and new forms directly next to each 
other (Ser. no. 33b, GBM 2459-2460; see von Hiniiber 2014,104). For an example from the Schoy- 
en Collection with only old forms of ya (MS 2381/57; the text on the other side is written in GB 1!), 
see Hartmann 2002b, 314, 318-319; Sander 2007,131,137, fig. 3. 

84 For the more cursive variant, see the above-mentioned protective charms for Navasuren- 
dradityanandi and the added mahdraksd at the end of the Hayagrivavidyd, a section in a 
Kdrmavdcand collection (ser. no. 3; GBM 67-68, folio see von Hiniiber 1969,103,125-131), 
Annapdnavidhi (a medical text; ser. no. 20; GBM 1708-1713), Ddrikdgdthds (ser. no. 53; GBM 3229- 
3263) and the Bhakhshali manuscript (a mathematical text). 

85 See the Ekottarikdgama (Ser. no. 4a; GBM 93-128) and the Dharmaskandha (Ser. no. 5; GBM 
151-156). 

86 See a Prdtimoksasutra and Karmavdcand (Ser. no. 4b and d; GBM 129-150) and the 
Visvantardvaddna (Ser. no. 8; GBM 1332-1349, 3314-3315). 

87 I am grateful to Kazuo Kano, Alexis Sanderson, and Christiana Kalantari who provided me 
information about the Lhasa manuscript as well as photographs. A few leaves are published in 
Precious Deposits 1,113-116, no. 74, and Tibet Museum, 54-55, no. 1. 



264 


Gudrun Melzer 


and at least partly, by different scribes. The second to last text contains a short 
colophon referring to the year 29 of the Laukika era or of the reign of Anantadeva, 
who may be the same Anantadeva mentioned in Kashmirian historiographical 
texts.®® Thus, the manuscript most likely dates to the middle of the 11* century. 

The script exhibits a strong similarity to the script of the DA, and thus the sig¬ 
nificant differences can only be detected upon a second look. In the Lhasa manu¬ 
script, the diacritic vowel sign -a is always attached to the right vertical of the 
consonant sign ghra, yd, sd), while in the DA several possibilities exist 

ghra, 3? yd, sd). Also in the Lhasa manuscript, a tendency for writing dia¬ 
critic vowel signs at the top of consonant signs can be observed ke, $ ko, mo, 

% kau, T tau, ^ ran, ^ law, DA: % kau, ^ tau, ^ ran, lau)?'^ The aksara ca, as 
a main consonant sign, has a much less triangular shape in the Lhasa manuscript 
*t ca, ^ co) than in the DA ^ ca, ^ co). The aksara na appears in two vari¬ 
ants in the Lhasa manuscript •"), the latter corresponding to the shape used in 

the DA. Two different forms can also be found for the subscribed consonant sign 
-th- in the Lhasa manuscript. While one corresponds with the DA (Lhasa: sthi; 
DA: ^ stha), the second form is very different (Lhasa: 5. ntha, rtha, ^ stha; DA: 
5 ntha, 5 rtha, ^ stha). The aksara la represents an important indication for the 
more developed type of the script in the Lhasa manuscript (^; DA: •T). The Lhasa 
manuscript only contains modern forms for ya («r yd) and ha (<5), but it should 
not be forgotten that the manuscript does not have a very long copying history. 
In the Lhasa manuscript, two punctuation marks can be found that are unknown 
in the DA. One looks like a comma and stands either after a word or a word group 
(,).®“ There is also a sign that has a function similar to the double danda at the end 
of text sections (5). Other differences are listed in table 4. 

Finally, another interesting detail can be observed. In the Lhasa manuscript, 
the forms of ba (e.g. « ba, 8* ba, bi) and va (e.g. ^ va, ^ vd, vf) are clearly 
differentiated,®^ in contrast to the DA, where the two aksaras cannot be distin- 


88 Kawasaki 2004, 50. Surprisingly there are no titles of the ruler mentioned. 

89 This tallies with the observations by Vogel (1911, 64) concerning a few copper plate inscrip¬ 
tions from Chamba of the 11*^ century. Vogei has compared the frequency of the three possible 
types for writing the medial -o with the earlier Sarahan stone inscription (prasasti) from about 
the lO'** century. According to him (ibid, 65), by the 13* century the addition of the -o above the 
main consonant sign becomes (with few exceptions) the norm in inscriptions. 

90 Similar marks can also be found in Nepalese manuscripts and inscriptions, however, most 
are from a slightly later period onwards. 

91 However, the difference is iess obvious in the case of the conjunct signs or in the combina¬ 
tion of bu/vu. in this respect, inscriptions may differ from manuscripts. Kaul Deambi (2008, 39) 
did not notice differences between the two aksaras in early Sarada inscriptions of the 11* to 13* 
centuries. Earlier, he referred to a difference in the Bakhshali manuscript (1982, 72, 85), but later 



Tab. li-.Aksaras of “Proto-Sarada/GB2” from the Dirghagama manuscript and “early Sarada” from the Lhasa manuscript (in italics) 


A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Gilgit Region 


265 


ka 

ko 

(V 

fti 

«rr 1 

cca 

fit ~ 

hca 

DU 

W« 

s ■= 

C3 

Wf> 

ka 

ite 'M 

ei)i 

p 1 

, ins 

Iff a 

^ .2L 

C3 

£ 'g. 

s 

< S 

r o 


ins 

fe)t 

l*r §, 

C3 

Bf a 

F .SL 

ro 

tn 

t % 

F's 

jl** a 

1? o 

Si 

1^1 

/p a 

ns 

(PT u 

•r 

l<r 1 

11: 

K* a 

iff ra 

o 

Ut ^ 

-is: 

1 1 

^ a 

fr 8 

Ur 

fetr.| 

t ^ 

l c- 

k» a 

<ft* a 

r ^ 

OJ 

(w ^ 

C3 

P S 

(»r §, 

^ S 



£ g. 

a 

P* a 

^ oi 


C3 

P S 

r S, 

’G 


fer.2 

t g. 

HP ™ 

^ 2 

r a. 


ns 

P 5 

^ OJ 

r w) 

‘u 


IT .2 

F g. 

?? 1 

iP 2 



ro 

P 5 


B 8 

6" ;s. 

.1 

C3 

if =§. 

ro 

fo ^ 

r a 

•9 3 

Id’ ^■ 


1? M 

IT 8 

P ;s. 

Pd .>: 

ro 

f =§■ 

H 1: 

f*’ 2 

K =1 


iro 

bfl 

If 3 

If- ;™ 

6i) 1 

6r ^• 

ro 

fs g: 

p 2 



'Q 

g) 

r 3 

r ;ro 

Pd.>: 

prig. 

^ 1 : 

^ a- 

r => 


C3 

I5f M 

o 

6v -c 

-S, 


‘P'i:. 

ro 

a- 

;<> - 

k9.g 

ro 

'B) 

Wf.| 

.IE 


# S. 


(Pa¬ 

i* _ 

if M 

C3 

•r 'B) 


^ a 

W’ -6 

is. 



rr 3 


(*? 3 

ro 

Hr 'bi) 

ro 

tf :e 

ro 

hf -5 



g. 

IT 2 


Jf s 

C3 

.ti- -is: 
-is: 

^ ’B) 

5^1 

»!9 1 

'O 

6 s. 

tf g. 

IP 2 


4f 2 

ro 

’bi) 

ins 

fe" M 

M 1 ' 

- iro 

Pf IE, 

/g s. 

‘1 g 

-P a 



1 

''3 

^ D) 

C3 

P ■§, 

ro 

»9 CT 

o 

^ 4 B. 

1 g. 

‘P a 

r 

:§ 

4i?' 1 

& iro 

W bfl 

ro 

P -g> 


ro 

pr ;e. 

t a 

g. 

M*’ a 

C3 

lip :§ 


•r^ O) 

Q 

tr ^ 

iro 

§ 

t a 

g. 

^ -a 

9!' o 

Ctr 

IT ^ 

to. ^ 
Ir 

^ ro 
IT bfl 

Itr 1 

trfi 

mi 

^ JB. 

tt g. 

4Pa 

IT ™ 

K- S 

fys 

^ s 

F's. 

ro 

nT a 

fof :§: 

S' t 

1 g. 

4? -a 

















266 


Gudrun Melzer 


if 


ro 

1/1 







'C3 

Jfr g 


iro 

STB 


o 

Mf § 

ro 

o 

ro 

if & 


'O 

u a- 



o 

ki> a¬ 




o 

wa 




K!^a 

ro 

i»fa 

6n § 

rS 


de 

dha 

nl 

ndra 

tjr^ a 

bha 

mu 

k®r 's. 

tr- 5; 

rdha 

de 

dha 

fjf 'E 

li 

nda 

nd 

bha 

mu 

tSr '5, 

£! 

rdi 

de 

r 

dva 

^^r 'E 

epu 

-r'a 

bha 

p{r s 

s 

ru 

£ a 

»p"-g 

dva 

6<- 

ni 

ntha 

'5. 

% 

bha 

-5^ 'i 


ru 


»»■-§ 

BT -o 

ni 

ro 

iw a 

Ct>' '5. 

bha 

E 

•>, 

^ a 

<15 « 

np 

dva 

nd 

s 

ln> c 

id 

pha 

mi 

&r '§, 

a 

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268 


Gudrun Melzer 


guished from one another. Perhaps the same shape of these aksaras, along with 
the differences of ca and la, can be regarded as important characteristics of GB 2/ 
PS when compared to the early Sarada script of the Lhasa manuscript. 

The observations gleaned from comparing the script in these two manu¬ 
scripts may be useful for dating manuscripts or inscriptions that are still undated. 
Thus, the Bhakhshali manuscript®^ is clearly nearer to the Lhasa manuscript than 
to the DA. 

The date when the “real Sarada script” made its first appearance is not 
exactly known. Kaul Deambi has revised his view of its beginnings lying in the 8* 
century based on the incorrect dating of the Hund inscription (Kaul Deambi 1992, 
3, 24, 60-61),®® and has shifted it to the 9* century (2008,17, 23), referring to the 
Sarahan stone inscription {pmsasti) as the earliest example. This important and 
long inscription, is, unfortunately, not dated. Vogel is “inclined to assign it to the 
9* century” (Vogel 1911, 47), but then dates it to the 10* century (ibid, 155). The 
category of 9*- to 10*-century Sarada inscriptions of Kaul Deambi (2008, 24-34) 
is rather blurred; it does not clearly indicate the differences to the earlier script. 
Most of the inscriptions referred to are not precisely dated and the longer exam¬ 
ples are all ascribed to the 10* century. Based on the dating of GB 2 by Sander 
(see note 10), Slaje (1993,15) regards the 10* century as the earliest date for the 
Sarada script. 


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he abandoned this observation (2008, 53). The bare aksaras ba or bd, with nothing beneath, are 
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92 See note 57. 

93 This inscription of Queen Kamesvari from northern Pakistan corresponds closely to the script 
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of the numerals. 



A Palaeographic Study of a Buddhist Manuscript from the Giigit Region 


269 


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Agnieszka Helman-Wazny 

Tibetan manuscripts: Between History 
and Science 

1 Manuscript studies and Tibetan books 

Considered as part of a world heritage, ancient books are not only vehicles for 
content, but also very important sources of information about technology, mate¬ 
rials used for production, as well as the art techniques involved. There are several 
reasons for carrying out this study: at the micro-level, studying individual books 
provides us with valuable information about a particular book and possibly its 
provenance. However, seen from a broader perspective, examining a range of 
items help reconstruct the history of crafts connected with bookmaking, such as 
papermaking, ink production, and the art of scribing. Furthermore, the examina¬ 
tion of each book will allow evidence to be collected on book production from all 
periods and regions in Tibet, thus enhancing our understanding of the role books 
play in Tibetan culture. In other words, this kind of material research, when per¬ 
formed on a sufficiently representative groups of books, will enable the history of 
the book in Tibet to be written. The following is a summary of the research which 
has been conducted to date. 

In the context of library science, a manuscript is defined as any handwritten 
item in the collections of a library or an archive, as opposed to being printed or 
reproduced in some other way. In general, manuscript culture refers to the devel¬ 
opment and use of manuscripts as a means of storing and disseminating infor¬ 
mation prior to the age of printing. The history of manuscripts in the Western 
world may seem to have ended with the invention and proliferation of printing. 
Tibetans, however, continued the tradition of manuscript production even after 
the invention of xylography. Manuscripts were still being produced in the second 
half of the ZO*** century, when Tibet had become part of China and the editing 
process was automated. Within that timeframe, the development of book produc¬ 
tion techniques was influenced by the availability of new materials, but the basic 
book formats have been preserved until today. 

Manuscript studies, bibliography, and the history of books are very closely 
related to each other. Manuscript studies overlap with and make use of such dis¬ 
ciplines as palaeography, codicology, archaeology, papyrology, the study of book 
bindings, writing implements, and scribal methods. Additionally, all aspects of 
manuscript production, dissemination, readership, provenance, ownership, and 
preservation are relevant to manuscript studies. 


276 


Agnieszka Helman-Wazny 


Even though written documents play an important role in the discipline of 
history, there can be no doubt that important evidence comes from a variety of 
different sources, including artefacts and oral tradition. However, written docu¬ 
ments such as manuscripts, printed books, or inscribed pillars, act both as docu¬ 
ments and as artefacts, and their physical properties can be studied in much the 
same way as those of a sculpture, painting, or ceramic object. Thus, were one to 
ignore the non-linguistic aspects of manuscripts, it would deprive one of impor¬ 
tant historical evidence. 

While the history of Tibetan literature has at least received some attention 
within Tibetan Studies, a systematic study of the physical features of manuscripts, 
such as format, binding style, and material composition, is unfortunately almost 
completely lacking, with the notable exception of Cristina Scherrer-Schaub’s con¬ 
tributions.^ I would, however, refrain from using the term “codicology” in the 
context of old Tibetan manuscripts. Codicology is the study of the codex, which 
is a bound book, and particularly the study of the physical makeup and modes 
of production of a given volume. Between the 2"'^ and centuries, the preserva¬ 
tion of writing in the Latin world shifted from papyrus, stored in rolls, to parch¬ 
ment, stored in a codex, or pages bound into a book. We might say that codicol¬ 
ogy is the archaeology of the book if defined as the codex, with “archaeology” 
understood as the search for and interpretation of artifacts. Since the majority 
of Tibetan books represent the pothi format, a loose-leaf construction, it would 
be better simply to use the term “archaeology” here, especially because the term 
“archaeology of the book” is already used in the context of studying the history 
and evolution of old manuscripts and medieval book constructions.^ 

In any kind of study of book collections related to manuscript studies, a sta¬ 
tistical approach is important. It is not possible to base one’s conclusions only on 
a small group of books from a single collection, place, or ovmer. Although each 
observation is important in its own right, it still must only be regarded as part of 
the data as a whole, and cannot be understood as representative of all Tibetan 
book history. In general, more research is needed before this field can fully con¬ 
tribute to the reconstruction of the history of the Tibetan book. 

Since Tibetan has been used as a literary language throughout a very large 
area and across several nations, including the Himalayan region of South Asia, 
the concept of nationality in the context of cultural heritage among originally 
nomadic people is complicated. The full geographical range in which Tibetan has 


1 Scherrer-Schaub 1999, Scherrer-Schaub and Bonani 2002. 

2 For reference to “archaeology of the book” in medieval manuscript studies, see Szirmai 1999. 
However, in medieval manuscript studies both terms are used equally, as it was discussed by 
Gruijs 1972. 



Tibetan manuscripts: Between History and Science 


277 


served as a language of learning, however, is even greater. With the promulgation 
of Tibetan Buddhism among the Mongols and Manchus, literary Tibetan became 
a common medium of communication among Inner Asian Buddhists by the end 
of the 17* century, and was used at the beginning of the 20* century as far west 
as the Volga River flows into the Caspian Sea and as far east as Beijing. The study 
and use of literary Tibetan has also been revived to varying degrees in Burya¬ 
tia and Tuva in the Russian Federation, among ethnic Mongols and Yi in China, 
and in Mongolia itself. This is why books written in Tibetan differ widely in their 
form and in materials used: not every community using the Tibetan language 
adapted all Tibetan bookmaking techniques similarly, nor did they use the same 
resources. In this sense, local “book culture” was often preferred. 

It is often assumed that the language of a book determines its ethnic affili¬ 
ation because language is a feature that distinguishes nations. But especially in 
Tibet and also in many other parts of Asia, language is entirely insufficient as 
a primary determinant. Depending on religious tradition, political situation, or 
cultural tradition, the culture of a book often has a multilingual character. Never¬ 
theless Tibetan script was the most general criterion for selecting manuscripts in 
this study, and this criterion served as a starting point for a preliminary typology 
of Tibetan manuscripts features. Creating a typology of particular features, such 
as page layout, format, binding style and materials can then help to classify the 
initially large selection of books into groups and relate them to particular local 
book cultures. This study indicates that each of the many physical characteristics 
of which Tibetan books are composed might indeed lead to a variety of multicul¬ 
tural connections. 

Present studies of Buddhist manuscripts owe much to the techniques and 
terminology of codicology established by earlier humanist scholars of Latin and 
Greek, or later also Middle Eastern languages.^ A significant part of the methods 
and terminology can be borrowed, but not all, and not without careful con¬ 
sideration of the specifics of the new context. Asian manuscripts have not yet 
been approached from a codicological, or rather archaeological perspective, as 
Western manuscripts have. 


3 Buddhist manuscripts studies as emerging discipline is discussed in Berkwitz / Schober / 
Brown 2009. 



278 


Agnieszka Helman-Wazny 


2 Methodology: The uneasy alliance of science 
and history in Tibetan manuscript studies 

Until now, research on the materiality of Tibetan books has not been undertaken 
in a systematic manner. Furthermore, in the case of Tibetan books, the interdisci¬ 
plinary character of manuscript studies gives rise to many methodological prob¬ 
lems. The lack of clarity or consensus on methods makes methodology itself still 
a field of study and experimentation, without defined guidelines. Additionally, 
the terminology is not unified, and is often dependant on a scholar’s particular 
background. Clearly, results obtained from scientific examination and historical 
record should complete and inform each other. However, to achieve such a level 
of communication between different disciplines is a great challenge. Historians 
rarely undertake scientific examinations of manuscripts, and tend to rely only on 
their textual content; scientists are usually not equipped with adequate knowl¬ 
edge of the source language and culture to be able to fully interpret the results of 
their analyses without the help of linguists and historians. 

In fact, methods borrowed from various disciplines of both science and 
history, such as library science, bibliography, codicology, palaeography, material 
science, history of art and crafts, archeometry and archaeology, were applied for 
this research in an attempt to establish a preliminary typology of Tibetan manu¬ 
scripts features. The first part of the investigations has always consisted of library 
research, selection of manuscripts and preliminary descriptions of the physical 
features of the manuscripts based on visual inspection, such as page outline fea¬ 
tures, book format and especially type of paper. Secondly, the genre of the book 
was initially recognised based on the library catalogue entry or, in the case of 
uncatalogued items, with the help of a regional specialist. Further palaeographi- 
cal approaches allowed for comparative analyses of page outlines in different 
types of books with special attention to the text composition, type of script, and 
style of rubric and ruling.'* The main purpose was to group all the books that were 
examined according to the features described above. It often proved helpful to 
link particular items to groups that had previously been identified. Moreover, it 
proved easier to classify particular manuscripts into categories on a visual basis 
than by textual content alone. Further characteristics, such as decoration, ico¬ 
nography and paints, were examined within the scope of my abilities. 


4 In Medieval Manuscript Studies “rubric” refers to lines of text written in a different ink. Most 
often, but not always, red rubrics served as instructional guides to the reader, providing descrip¬ 
tive headings and marking divisions in the text. The term comes from Latin rubrica meaning red. 
“Ruling” refers to the horizontal lines applied to the paper to guide the scribe’s hand. 



Tibetan manuscripts: Between History and Science 


279 


Some data was extracted by means of analytical methods such as optical 
microscopy. Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), dendrochronology, etc. The 
fibre composition of the paper was examined by the author for most of the manu¬ 
scripts described here. Material analyses were especially emphasized since they 
provide a wealth of information about the origin of a book, and sometimes helped 
date the creation of a particular piece of art or craftsmanship. In addition, mate¬ 
rial analyses often provided clues about the artist’s outlook, such as whether 
their choice of materials was deliberate or out of necessity. The examination also 
included studying the paper’s surface in the context of how it absorbs the ink, 
as well as photographic documentation of the paper structure and transparency, 
such as patterns of chain and laid lines on the paper sheet. In a few cases it was 
possible to use radiocarbon dating to determine the age of paper. Though 
expensive, this procedure is desirable as it provides an independent and objec¬ 
tive method for organic materials. 

A detailed list of the institutions and collections of Tibetan books that have 
been included in this research can be found in the appendix. 


3 Preliminary approaches to a typology of the 
features of manuscripts in Tibet 

Manuscripts were produced even during the golden age of Tibetan xylograph 
printing in the 18‘*' century, yet their purpose was different. Manuscripts were not 
intended for mass dissemination, but instead as an ornate and unique offering 
to the Dalai Lama or other patrons, and to gain spiritual merit. They were also 
quicker and cheaper to produce when only one copy was intended. The act of 
copying texts was regarded as highly meritorious, even more so than printing, 
and thus was often sponsored by various religious and political leaders. There 
has been always a close link between the aesthetics of book production and 
patronage. However, many religious texts in Tibet were also copied by nonprofes¬ 
sional scribes for training purposes and to gain spiritual merit for their work. Such 
manuscripts were usually produced and utilised by scribes as a part of their reli¬ 
gious practice. They were intended neither for wider dissemination nor as gifts. 
They often contained only fragments of religious texts. Historical or administra¬ 
tive notes were also usually handwritten. Production of such manuscripts was 
cheap, in contrast to the scribal publications of Tibetan Buddhist Canon editions. 
Production of handwritten editions of Kanjur and Tanjur or other significant texts 
was a costly and laborious process in which an equally great expenditure of funds 
and resources was needed for every copy desired. The use of precious stones. 


280 


Agnieszka Helman-Wazny 


gold, silver and other rare minerals, as well as the application of special prepara¬ 
tion techniques, make them more expensive than xylograph prints in the final 
analysis, especially if more than one copy was produced. 


3.1 Ink and other writing substances 

The material was initially divided into two groups; manuscripts written in black 
ink on raw paper and manuscripts written in gold ink on blue or black paper.^ 
The first type was found in the British Library, the Asia and Pacific Museum in 
Warsaw, the University of Virginia Library, the Jagiellonian University Library in 
Cracow, and the Berlin State Library. Examples of the second type were found in 
the collections of the British Library, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, the 
RRE private collection, the Columbia University Library, the Pomeranian Library 
in Szczecin, and the Asia and Pacific Museum in Warsaw.® 

In both types of manuscripts, the tools for executing the base lines and for 
writing differ, and there are variations in the general layout of the pages as well, 
such as the number of text lines, the size of margins, the placement of miniatures, 
the decorative elements, the placement of commentary (if any) in relation to the 
placement of the main text, and the presence of notes by author, scribe or readers 
(so-called “marginalia” in Western books). Writing and painting tools have 
always depended on the materials that are to be inscribed. In general, changes 


5 Manuscripts written in gold are distinguished by their special decorative look. The symbolism 
of this special form of Tibetan craftsmanship is very strongly connected with Buddhist philoso¬ 
phy and Tibetan religious art. Books are also known as “gold manuscripts” since they are sup¬ 
posed to be written with ink made of seven precious gems and metals, mostly gold. According 
to a Tibetan manual for scribes, the first line of a text should be written in gold, the second one 
in turquoise, the third in silver, the fourth in coral, the fifth in iron, the sixth in bronze, and the 
seventh with material made of conch shell. The production demanded excellent artistic skills 
which were also considered worthy of gaining spiritual merit. Gold manuscripts are also distin¬ 
guished from other manuscripts by the particular process needed for the preparation of paper 
and the technique of executing the text (writing tools). For further information see: Bio rdor 1990. 

6 The following is a list of items examined arranged according to their location: From the British 
Library: Liberation through Hearing in the Intermediate State (OR 15190), manuscript written in 
gold with Tibetan religious text brought as a gift from Bhutan in 1866 (MS 13162), Sel dkar Kanjur 
(OR 6724). From the Flerbert F. Johnson Museum of Art: Illuminated cover and frontispiece of 
Eight Thousand Lines Perfection of Wisdom Sutra (Accession number: 2006.028 a,b). From Rich¬ 
ard Ernst private collection: Illuminated cover and frontispiece of Eight Thousand Lines Perfec¬ 
tion of Wisdom Sutra. From the Columbia University Library: IS* century (?) Lotus Sutra (Tibetan 
ms.6). From the Pomeranian Library in Szczecin: Diamond Sutra written in gold (DSB1). From the 
Asia and Pacific Museum in Warsaw: Diamond Sutra written in gold (MAP 4323). 



Tibetan manuscripts: Between History and Science 


281 


in technology entail other changes as well, for instance, the discovery of new 
writing tools revolutionised all other practices in copying manuscripts. It seems, 
however, that the foundation of the Tibetan art of writing, has not undergone a 
“revolution” since very early times. 

Different types of ruling, such as scribal guidelines, frames or marginal 
lines, were indispensable elements of the outline of Tibetan manuscript leaves 
(Figure 1). According to traditional procedures, in manuscripts written on raw 
paper, numerous lines were drawn as a base for Tibetan text using a sandal¬ 
wood stick, which colours the paper yellow when wet, or with the juice of yellow 
cypress turmeric (skyer shun gi khuwa) mixed with various fragrances. For manu¬ 
scripts written in gold ink, the ruling was scratched onto the paper with a sharp 
tool without colouring involved, as we can observe in the Lotus Sutra (Tib. Ms. 
6, Columbia University Library) or on the frontispiece from the Herbert Johnson 
Museum of Art. Another type of ruling allows for text composition within a full 
frame, or sometimes in between side margins. In many manuscripts written in 
gold, these lines (or full frames) are drawn with red ink close to the edges of the 
paper leaf. In other cases, the same ink is used as for the text. 



Fig- 1: Text executed on yellow scribal guidelines and composed within red-drawn frame on this 
page from the Tibetan Selkar Kanjur. The British Library Collection (OR 672A, vol. 56). 


Another common element is the shape of circles located exactly in the places 
where the holes were pierced for strings in the Indian pustaka - those were 
primary to the text, which was composed out of those circled spots (Figure 2). 
These circles were found in some of the Tibetan manuscripts from Dunhuang, 
and also in many manuscripts dated to a period after the Dunhuang caves were 
sealed in the early 11* century. In ms. 6 from the Columbia University, a sharp 
tool was also used to create vertical lines corresponding to side margins. Fur¬ 
thermore, the central part of the leaf, as defined by margins, was painted with 
black ink in a regular, rectangular shape holding all text lines. The margins are 






282 


Agnieszka Helman-Wazny 


not coloured and thus clearly marked off from the black-inked rectangular frame 
containing text. The side margins vary in length from 5-6 cm, with the upper 
and bottom margins 3-5 cm. In the middle of the framed area, there are two 
circular shapes with the text arranged outside of them, made with a sharp tool. 
Most of the circles were redrawn with red ink, and a few have an additional silver 
circle inside. 



Fig. 2: Shape of circle located where the hole in the Indian pustaka leaf usually was pierced for 
string binding all leaves. Text based on the yellow scribal guidelines also visible here. A detail 
of page from the Tibetan Selkar Kanjur. The British Library Collection (OR 672A, vol. 56). 


Most of the manuscripts were written in dbu can script, irrespective of which 
group they belonged to. However, the quality and techniques of writing differ 
to a great extent, depending on the artistic skills of the scribes. The frontispiece 
from the Johnson Museum, the frontispiece from the RRE private collection and 
the Sel dkar Kanjur from the British Library are distinguished by their beautiful 
calligraphy. Other books begin with steady writing and later appear to decrease 
in quality, or sometimes fragments of a book are written sloppily. Such fragments 
may have been written by a different, less skilled scribe. This can be observed 




Tibetan manuscripts: Between History and Science 


283 


in the Diamond Sutra from the Asia and Pacific Museum in Warsaw, written in 
gold. Throughout centuries, a bamboo pen was considered the best instrument 
for writing Tibetan. A special knife for cutting a bamboo tree to make a pen was 
therefore a valuable tool, regarded as equally important. 

The number of text lines usually ranges from four to nine, depending on the 
book format and size of the letters. However, the rule for increasing the number of 
verses of text on the first pages was repeated in most of the manuscripts studied. 
In the manuscript frontispiece written in gold ink on black-inked paper from the 
Johnson Museum, Cornell University, the title is written in two lines on the verso 
page of the book cover. Three lines of text are on the recto side of the frontispiece, 
and eight text lines are on the verso page of the frontispiece - this suggests that 
the missing rest of the book may be written in eight lines of text per page. 

Taking another example presumed to be from the 15*^ century, the Lotus Sutra 
(Tibetan ms. 6) from the Columbia University Library written in golden and silver 
ink on a black-inked background has six text lines on the first page (recto), and 
seven text lines on the second page (verso). The text is written in dbu can script, 
characterised by square, relatively wide letters. This type of script is characteris¬ 
tic of the Tibetan printing heritage, yet most of the manuscripts under examina¬ 
tion also used this script. 

Another common element in Tibetan manuscripts is rubric, which is the 
special type of text marking that served as instructional guides to the reader, 
providing descriptive headings and marking divisions in the text. Thus, empha¬ 
sis was placed on more important words in Tibetan manuscripts by using gold, 
silver, or red ink, or different sized letters. For example, in Tibetan ms. 6, men¬ 
tioned above, fragments of text are marked with gold ink. At the beginning, each 
page contains gold and silver text fragments alternately, the first line starting 
with gold. This pattern continues every second line on the first page, and on four 
later leaves some words are marked off with gold. The last page has a golden tri¬ 
angle with words written in gold on a background vdth silver text lines. The rest 
of the manuscript was written with silver ink (Figure 3). 

In the 13* century manuscript Mngon par rtogs pa’i rgyan gyi ‘grel bshad 
thegpa chen po la ‘jugpa shes bya ba (LTWA 14459), written in dbu med script, 
there are nine lines per page. The base text lines are hardly visible, painted in a 
colour similar to the paper, possibly juice of cypress turmeric. Sanskrit words are 
marked off with red ink. Margins are clearly sketched, also in red, on the title page 
they measure 10-12 cm, on the other pages 2.5-4 cm, and the upper and bottom 
margins are 1-2 cm. 


284 


Agnieszka Helman-Wazny 



Fig- 3: Lotus Sutra (Tibetan ms. 6) Columbia University Library. IS**" century. 



Fig- 4: Front page decorated with miniatures and ornamental frames, with curtain attached 
above, in the Tibetan Selkar Kanjur. The British Library Collection (OR 6724, vol. 65). 


Both groups of manuscripts, those written in black ink on raw paper and those 
written in gold on blue or black paper, often contain miniatures representing 
the Buddhist pantheon, usually related to the text or to the patron’s preferences. 
Sometimes they were painted directly on the written page, sometimes they were 











Tibetan manuscripts: Between History and Science 


285 


attached later to the frontispiece and mounted together with many independent 
elements, such as particular layers, curtains or additional paper frames. This can 
be observed in the London Sel dkar Kanjur or in the Johnson Museum’s frontis¬ 
piece (Figure 4). In this case, a sharp tool was also used to create vertical and 
horizontal lines corresponding to side margins, and to designate the space for the 
subsequent addition of miniatures. Furthermore, the typical ornament occurring 
in manuscripts is a variation of an endless knot. This type of ornament can be 
seen in almost all gold manuscripts in this study and also a few others written in 
black ink. 


3.2 Book format and bookbinding 

An important feature for typology is the book format and bookbinding style. Tra¬ 
ditional Tibetan books are designated by more than one term {dpe cha, glegs bam 
or deb thar), the content and form being directly inspired by the traditional Indian 
palm-leaf books called grantha or later pustaka. Preliminary research based on 
descriptions of Tibetan book formats and binding styles in existing objects has 
shown that most Tibetan books, regardless of textual content, were in the pothi 
format, which consists of loose leaves, with each leaf being made up of several 
layers of paper glued together, covered with boards made of wood, or layers of 
paper joined with strips made of paper or leather (Figure 5). 

It should be noted that the term ‘bookbinding’ is understood as the process 
of physically assembling a book from a number of folded or unfolded sheets 
of paper or other material. It reflects a general qualification for the variation 
between different copies of the same edition of a book cased in publisher’s cloth, 
whether those variations involve the book structure, colour, fabric, lettering, or 
decoration.^ It is a little tricky to define binding variants when dealing with loose- 
leaf books, particularly because it is rare that all binding elements are preserved. 
Elements of binding for the Tibetan pothi format include: stock of leaves, fabric 
cover, labels and covers. Since most parts of this type of binding are separate and 
easy to replace, loose-leaf book construction can pose limitations to the unifica¬ 
tion of the binding style. 

However, elements of pothi binding still have some variety, such as different 
covers, curtains, and frontispieces, and also vary according to the presence or 
absence of those elements. Covers can be made of wood or paper, veneer with 
textile, or metal fitting. Some of the covers have silk curtains covering minia- 


7 For further explanation, see Carter / Barker 2004, 41. 



286 


Agnieszka Helman-Wazny 



Fig- 5: Liberation through Hearing in the Intermediate State (bar do thos grol), often called the 
Tibetan Book of the Dead, The British Library (OR 15190). 

Lures, similar to the coverings of thangkas. For example, in the Liberation through 
Hearing in the Intermediate State (bar do thos grol), often called the Tibetan Book 
of the Dead in Western popular literature, from the British Library (OR 15190), the 
upper cover is made of a wooden plank, wrapped in paper dyed with indigo and 
glued to the cover with a top layer of silk. The same cover is carved and painted on 
the inside, with two silk respect-curtains attached to the top. The plank is made of 
softwood cut radially vdth a finished surface. 

A different type of cover was found in the Herbert Johnson Museum of Art. 
This cover measures 18-18,5 cm x 68,7 cm, and is made of layered paper joined 
together vdth leather strips. A green silk curtain was attached to the upper part of 
the cover (Figure 6). The paper sheets were never glued together, instead mounted 
with leather or paper strips. Aside from the cover and frontispiece, all other leaves 
of the book are missing. However, it is clear that the manuscript was composed of 
loose leaves and it is very possible that the book had an additional wooden cover, 
since that was typical in this type of manuscript, which was made as a special 
offering or gift. 




Tibetan manuscripts: Between History and Science 


287 



Fig. 6: Illuminated cover and frontispiece of Eight Thousand Lines Perfection of Wisdom Sutra 
(Accession number: 2006.028a, b). The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. 


As previously mentioned, the majority of the objects in these collections are in a 
loose-leaf format, but in a variety of sizes. Tibetan scribes did alter the size of the 
page, largely because they were using materials different from palm leaves. The 
sizes range from very small pothi books similar in proportions to palm leaves, to 
quite large volumes of Kanjur measuring 73.2 cm x 26.8 cm, as is the case with the 
‘Handwritten Kanjur of Berlin’ acquired in 1889 by von Brandt (Peking-Kanjur), 
handwritten in black and red ink, and preserved in the Berlin State Library, mea¬ 
suring 73.2 cm X 26.8 cm. 

Many other examples of Tibetan binding styles, such as scrolls, concertina 
or bound books (boarded, stitched booklets) were seen in the collections of 
the British Library, the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives and the Tibetan 
Museum in Lhasa. 

A couple of scrolls were found among the Dunhuang collection. The con¬ 
certina form of the book was found in the British Library (MS 13092), and many 
other examples are in the Jagiellonian University Library, located in the part of 



288 


Agnieszka Helman-Wazny 


the collection called Pander A. In the bound books, a variety of kinds of mounting 
(folding and division of leaves into quires), serving, and arrangements could be 
found. The common viewpoint among many researchers is that very few bound 
books exist in Tibet, and most of them are thought to be recent. However, some 
sewn books written in Tibetan exist all over the world and are dated from the 
about the 10* century to the present. The possible origin of binding techniques, 
as well as terminology for them, have to be discussed. One possibility is that this 
type of binding was derived from Persian origins. This form is called deb ther 
in Tibetan, possibly from the Persian daftar, bound at the top and largely made 
for official, chancellery purposes.® For example, the Tibetan Pharmacy from the 
Ethnographic Museum in Cracow consists of two manuscripts. One of them is a 
medical treaty in the pothi form, and the second one is a register of drugs in the 
form of a sewn book. Another interesting observation is that this type of book can 
also be written in gold, as is the case with a gold manuscript containing Tibetan 
religious text from the collection of the British Library (MS 13162). This manuscript 
of 42 leaves measuring 18,5 cm x 7,5 cm x 2 cm was brought as a gift from Bhutan 
in 1866. It is a stitched book composed of three sections, the middle covered vdth 
cloth and the sides covered vdth silk. Three sections covered separately before 
sewing make up the spine of this manuscript (Figure 7). 



Fig- 7: Manuscript written in gold with Tibetan religious text brought as a gift from Bhutan in 
1866. The British Library (MS 13162). 


3.3 Writing support 

When Tibetans chose paper as the support for their scriptures, two other materi¬ 
als with stronger roots in Indian Buddhist tradition had already existed - birch 


8 Persian daftar is understood as a collection of written leaves or sheets (forming a book for 
registration); hence ‘a register of accounts’; a ‘register of soldiers or pensioners’; a ‘register of 
the rights or dues of the State, or relating to the acts of government, the finances and the admin¬ 
istration’; also any book, and especially a collection of the poems of some particular poets. See: 
<http://en.wikipedia.Org/wiki/List_of_English_words_of_Persian_origin#D> 





Tibetan manuscripts: Between History and Science 


289 


bark and palm leaves. Birch bark was available across the Himalayas and was 
especially favoured by Kashmiris. It was knovm to and used by the Tibetans from 
at least the century onwards.® There is a book written on birch bark in the form 
of a bound book with a leather cover, which resembles the Kashmiri or Arabic 
style. According to the exhibition in the Tibetan Museum in Lhasa, this book 
dates to the time of Srongbtsan sgampo (7*^ century). The book was not available 
for closer examination; however, taking into consideration its form and binding 
style, it must be a much later copy of the aforementioned text. 

The paper support of manuscripts is one of the most important physical fea¬ 
tures which can serve as a distinguishing mark and help provide information 
about the origin of a manuscript, or furthermore its purpose and significance. 
Therefore, the documentation of paper features in manuscripts is one of the 
most crucial aspects of typology. In some cases, the identification of materials 
(resources) and their origin can even directly result in much quicker classification 
of manuscripts than translation of their textual content, since the examination of 
paper or other materials is an independent and objective source of information 
about a book. Here, I propose a combination of three levels of criteria for a typol¬ 
ogy of Tibetan paper: the raw material used, the type of papermaking mould, and 
the preparation of the leaves before writing. 

Identifying raw material used for paper production can help identify the 
paper’s origin. When comparing the results of fibre analyses of ancient books 
with the location of occurrence of the same plant, we can obtain information 
about the book’s possible region of origin.“ The area suggested by plant occur¬ 
rence can be critically evaluated by other sources of information, such as textual 
content, layout of page and manuscript form. In this manner, the examination of 
these features can help determine whether or not the book originates from the 
same area or region that is understood to be its cultural context. For example, the 
key question for studying the fibre composition of papers in manuscripts found 
in Dunhuang and preserved in the British Library was about the beginning of 
Tibetan papermaking, the date of which has only been assumed until now. In 
addition to ramie, paper mulberry, and hemp fibres, mostly components of rag 
paper, which represent forty-one samples from the Dunhuang manuscripts, the 
Thymelaeaceae family plant fibres were also identified.^^ The oldest manuscripts 
written on paper made of the Thymelaeaceae family plants were dated to the 9* 
century. This supports the view that Tibetans were able to make paper by the 9* 
century at the latest and they apparently utilised this type of plant - which widely 


9 Reynolds 1991, 21. 

10 Helman-Wazny 2009b. 

11 Helman-Wazny 2009b. 



290 


Agnieszka Helman-Wazny 


occurs in the Himalayas - as raw material for technology invented and practiced 
by Chinese communities. 

The paper of the manuscript from the Johnson Museum was most likely glued 
into layers using starch paste and painted with black ink. Due to the painted black 
ink layer and surface preparation, it was not possible to see the paper structure 
clearly, which is why the type of papermaking mould could not be identified. Fibre 
composition analysis shows that paper mulberry fibres were used for making this 
paper. This suggests that the paper was definitely handmade. However, paper 
mulberry fibres are not typical for Tibetan books and were used in China rather 
than in Tibet. This may suggest that very fine paper could have been imported for 
making this manuscript. 

The second criterion allows for a typology regarding differences in technol¬ 
ogy. Here, handmade woven paper (with a print of textile sieve), handmade laid 
paper (with a print of chain and laid lines left by the papermaking mould), and 
machine made paper can be distinguished according to the type of papermaking 
mould used. Since we generally know the geographic range in which the par¬ 
ticular type of mould was used and the differences in sheet formation technol¬ 
ogy that occur, we can determine the region of a book’s origin on the basis of 
this identification. All aforementioned paper supports were identified during this 
study. There were books containing paper sheets that had been made by adher¬ 
ing together two to ten layers of handmade woven or laid paper. Books written 
on woven paper, such as most of the Sel dkar Kanjur, were usually composed of 
two to four layers of paper glued together. This type of paper was usually made 
of plants from the Thymeleaceae family. Books written on the Chinese type of 
laid paper, made using a movable type of mould, characterized by its thin and 
even structure, usually contained more than five layers of paper. This was neces¬ 
sary because such a thin type of paper could not be used as a one-layered sheet 
to produce the thicker leaf required for a large format, as the Tibetan Kanjur 
volumes usually are. The Berlin manuscript Kanjur from the Berlin State Library 
is written on this Chinese type made of many layers. There were also objects made 
up of single-layer leaves, usually machine-made paper originated in Russia. 
Many examples of Russian-type machine-made paper can be seen in the Asia and 
Pacific Museum in Warsaw.One-third of the Polish collection of Tibetan books 
was written on single-layer leaves, mostly machine-made paper sheets. Some of 
the Tibetan books contained both types of leaf preparation, with a vastly different 
number of paper layers within the same book. For example, in the collection of 
the Asia and Pacific Museum in Warsaw, it was possible to single out three kinds 


12 This type of paper is described in detail in the article: Helman-Wazny 2007. 



Tibetan manuscripts: Between History and Science 


291 


of paper supports: seventeen examples were of handmade woven paper, thirty 
were handmade laid paper, and thirty-six were machine-made paper. Such a pro¬ 
portion is characteristic for 19*^ and 20*^ century papers. 

The third level of criteria for the preparation of the leaves includes the con¬ 
struction of the leaf and the visual properties of its surface, such as dying the 
paper or exposing it to insect-repellent substances (which might change the 
colour of raw paper), as well as sizing the paper, gluing it in layers and polishing 
its surface. As a general rule, more precious and better quality manuscripts were 
written on more heavily processed paper. Thus, the paper for a Tibetan traditional 
manuscript sponsored by wealthy patrons usually has been highly processed. 
This includes methods such as sizing and polishing, drawing numerous lines as 
a base for Tibetan text using a sandalwood stick, drawing a frame with red ink on 
the edges of the paper, and in the end, properly executing a text. 


3.4 Dating and regional origin 

One objective of the research undertaken here is to determine the origin and prov¬ 
enance of every object. Provenance may designate either the place of origin of a 
manuscript or the various places where the manuscript has been preserved. It is 
best used to designate the place of origin or the single earliest known place of 
preservation. The study of the material and physical history of books and, in more 
practical terms, the identification of similarities between particular volumes with 
a focus on identifying the scriptoria (e.g. monasteries) that produced them, can 
help locate the book in a place and time. The same is true of the history of readers 
and reading, and of literary tastes: who reads or collects which books, and why? 
This can sometimes be determined through marks of ownership in books. 

It should be emphasized that there are many books without any chronologi¬ 
cal information in the text or colophon that would help allocate them to a certain 
place or period. In such cases, the best results again can be obtained by creating 
a typology of particular features. For example, the identification of Tibetan cal¬ 
ligraphy can provide a very helpful indication of its time of origin, since some cal- 
ligraphies were only used within a certain timeframe. However, our knowledge 
of calligraphies and when they were used is not sufficient. Routine art-historical 
methods seem to be less effective for books. Miniatures and ornaments occurring 
in Tibetan manuscripts have usually been painted by Buddhist monks according 
to the same formal rules, or even stencils, that they have always followed, and 
they are never signed by the artist. There is also no clear chronology of painting 
styles for them that could be used as a reference. On the other hand, iconography 


292 


Agnieszka Helman-Wazny 


and painting styles can suggest the Buddhist tradition, and further provide hints 
to the region of origin. 

There is no doubt that the material composition provides a good source of 
information for determining the authenticity of Tibetan books. As previously 
mentioned, comparing the fibre composition of the paper with the areas of the 
plant’s regional distribution can give information about the book’s origin. The 
composition of pigments, along with other media analyses, can also help if one 
traces this historically and compares it vdth the dates when new methods came 
into use in the history of the craft, such as papermaking and ink making. The 
chemical composition of the ink can be useful in dating a document when com¬ 
pared to the regional history of changes in inks and paints. The results found 
regarding the optical characteristics of the paper, fibre composition, presence of 
glue or paste in the paper, or the analyses of pigments and other media could also 
be supported by dendrochronology of wooden covers and radiocarbon dating. 

Book covers are also potential sources of information, but a loose-leaf con¬ 
struction can pose limitations. To draw clues from the covers, first of all we have 
to be sure that they are truly part of the book. For example, a century hand¬ 
written London Sel dkar Kanjur in the British Library, brought to England by the 
Younghusband expedition, contains covers that seem properly suited in size at 
first sight, yet the application of the lacquer and gold decorations was slightly 
less careful than the technique used for the book leaves. Accordingly, wood iden¬ 
tification showed that the covers were made of tropical wood indigenous to India, 
not Tibet. Such wood was usually not transported over long distances. However, 
in this case the wood was brought to Tibet from a quite distant area. Thus, taking 
into consideration a difference in the quality of the book leaves and the covers, 
one can assume that the covers were made later than the book leaves and possi¬ 
bly added by one of the previous owners, or even ordered by Younghusband just 
before all the books were sent to England via India. 

A good example of gleaning clues about dating and origin is the Libera¬ 
tion through Hearing in the Intermediate State {bar do thos grot) from the British 
Library. This is a Tibetan manuscript produced on Chinese-type paper, with a fibre 
composition based on paper mulberry/ramie, straw and possibly bamboo. Those 
were the most popular raw materials for papermaking and also typical compo¬ 
nents for xuan paper. This type of paper, featuring narrow distances in between 
laid lines, was made by hand with a movable type of mould with a fine, narrow 
bamboo sieve. It shows a thin layer of paper use and was dyed indigo by a dipping 
technique - all these characteristics suggest that the paper is of Chinese origin. 
On one side, a natural colour margin is left (1.5 cm) - the place for a finger to grip 
while pulling the paper through the dyeing solution (Figure 8). The book was not 
dated, but the 18* century was deduced from the text. The wooden book cover 


Tibetan manuscripts: Between History and Science 


293 


was analyzed using a non-destructive method of measuring the rings. Prelimi¬ 
nary results of dendrochronological analyses suggest that the book cover could 
originate from East Tibet due to its similarity to the chronology of that region. 
Radiocarbon dating shows the last 300 years plateau on the calibration line, but 
with the highest probability of originating within the time spans of 1680-1770 or 
1800-1940. 



Fig. 8: Liberation through Hearing in the Intermediate State (bar do thos grol), often called the 
Tibetan Book of the Dead, The British Library (OR 15190). 


Another example is the frontispiece and cover from the manuscript in the Herbert 
Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University. The style of clothing and hair deco¬ 
rations suggest that the manuscript comes from the western part of Tibet. Addi¬ 
tionally, the style of painting (colours, red outline drawing technique) is similar 
to those which we can observe in murals of the Tsaparang Monastery in western 
Tibet (Guge Kingdom). The next clue is that the Johnson Museum folios are very 
similar to the book cover (with the same Sanskrit title, but spelled differently) and 
a frontispiece of a gold manuscript from the RRE collection described in a modern 
catalogue^'* and dated to the late 15* century from Guge, western Tibet. However, 
this similarity suggests that both manuscripts should be very carefully checked. 


13 Tomasz Wazny 2009, personal communication. 

14 Pal 2003,158-159, 290. 



294 


Agnieszka Helman-Wazny 


since they may have been painted by the same workshop, using the same stencils. 
One may as well be a repetition of the other, since some parts are identical but 
others are related only in general style. They might also be from different volumes 
of the same set of Prajnaparamita manuscripts. 


4 Conclusions 

This preliminary research on manuscripts written in Tibetan shows the great 
potential of the “archaeology of books” but also a need to expand the group of 
manuscripts to be examined. The descriptions of particular objects has resulted 
in the standardisation of terminology and the concept of a catalogue form, 
expanded with the results of material examination. 

Overall, I have examined more than two hundred manuscripts from a variety 
of collections. I have prepared brief descriptions of physical features of these 
manuscripts. The pieces of information gathered for every manuscript will serve 
as a reference for further study and will help in the classification of unknown 
manuscripts. Furthermore, on the long term, once a sufficiently representative 
group of these particular types of manuscripts have been examined, I expect to 
gain the knowledge of the model typology, which will allow manuscripts to be 
classified by specific features and relate them to particular regional origins. This 
should be possible as soon as we know the form which different type of texts 
usually take in a given place or region of Tibet, or even in a particular monastery. 

The documented forms of Tibetan manuscripts have showed a relationship 
between functions served by particular book formats and the utility of these 
books. This can be observed when one compares the text content and format of 
loose-leaf pothi books to those that were sewn. Furthermore, devotional and reli¬ 
gious purposes highly influenced the form and quality of Tibetan manuscripts 
because of the intent to gain spiritual merit. Furthermore, generally speaking, 
manuscripts can be divided into the categories of cheap simple books written by 
nonprofessional scribes for their own purposes and very precious collections of 
books, such as scribal publications of the Tibetan Buddhist Canon sponsored by 
wealthy people. The division between manuscripts written in gold and in black 
ink can be superimposed on the previous two categories. A further analysis of 
the relationship between the book form and its utility could contribute to a better 
understanding of legal and social roles that manuscripts play in Tibet, and also 
explain the survival of the manuscript culture after the invention of the printing 
press. The coexistence of manuscripts and prints in Tibet until the 20*^ century is 
very significant within Tibetan culture, and cannot easily be explained without 


Tibetan manuscripts: Between History and Science 


295 


thorough study of Tibetan books in the wider context of the transmission of print¬ 
ing technology from China westward. Printed books, being cheaper and widely 
disseminated, are incomparable with precious works distributed in manuscript 
copies. 

The identification of fibre composition and other technological features of 
paper help answer some questions about the origin, trade and import of paper 
and manuscripts in Central Asia. Much more research needs to be done in order 
to achieve a higher precision of regional estimation. However, without a doubt, 
this preliminary study confirms that results of paper examination give indepen¬ 
dent evidence and contribute to the knowledge of the history of crafts related 
to book production. Based on the examination of paper in Tibetan manuscripts 
from Dunhuang, it was possible to estimate a date for the beginning of paper¬ 
making in Tibet. In the same way, a book can be dated by collecting information 
derived from all possible sources for the purpose of creating a typology, or by 
independent scientific methods, such as radiocarbon dating and dendrochronol¬ 
ogy for wooden covers. 

The preliminary typology of Tibetan manuscripts described in this article 
suggests the existence of “local book cultures”, and goes beyond the simple divi¬ 
sion between Tibetan and Chinese papers which is presently used. 


Appendix: Collections of Tibetan manuscripts 
understudy 

The following institutions and their collections of Tibetan books were examined 
for this study: 

1 Asia and Pacific Museum in Warsaw, surveyed 1997-2005. This museum pos¬ 
sesses the largest collection of traditional Tibetan books in Poland. Initially, 
most of the museum’s holdings came from the private collection of Andrzej 
Wawrzyniak, a Polish diplomat and sailor who later became director of the 
museum. The collection comprises a variety of different book types brought 
chiefly from Mongolia and Nepal, and provides a good selection of 19* and 
20* century books written in the Tibetan language. 60 books were selected 
for detailed research and elaborated in a monograph.^ 

2 Pomeranian Library in Szczecin, surveyed 2002-2003. This collection is asso¬ 
ciated with the Buddhist Book Project Poland, which has established a very 


15 Helman-Wazny 2009a. 



296 


Agnieszka Helman-Wazny 


good library and possesses many reprints. For the present study, one manu¬ 
script was chosen for detailed examination.^® 

3 Ethnographic Museum in Cracow, surveyed 2002-2005. This museum pos¬ 
sesses a very small collection of Tibetan books. However, an interesting 
and unique object, the Tibetan Pharmacy, was located there and chosen for 
research. It is one of the earliest Tibetan artefacts in Poland. It was purchased 
and brought to Poland by Witold Swiatopelk-Mirski, donated to the Polish 
Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cracow by Prof. Julian Talko-Hryncewicz 
in 1908 and later transferred to the museum in 1921. The Tibetan Pharmacy 
contains 2 handwritten books and additionally almost 300 medications 
with descriptions, each contained in separate bottles and sacks. It is one of 
the largest collections of Tibetan drugs from the 19* century preserved in 
Europe. 

4 Jagiellonian University Library in Cracow, which has fortunately preserved 
the Pander collection, originally from the Berlin State Library, surveyed since 
2002. It contains a collection of Tibetan texts that was thought to have been 
lost during World War II. Within the Pander Pantheon catalogue, I identified 
the Wanli Kanjur as well as other fragments of different Kanjur editions. To 
this date, 60 books have been described, and 250 viewed in the context of this 
project, together with Marek Mejor and Thupten Kunga Chashab. The entire 
Pander collection comprises 865 books. 

5 British Library collection, surveyed since 2005. Particular books from the 
Stein collection were chosen for examination based on their binding diver¬ 
sity. Finally, 11 books were selected to illustrate different types (or styles) of 
Tibetan binding.^® Two manuscripts were additionally chosen to represent a 
special form of Tibetan craftsmanship, since they were written in gold on a 
blue or black background. Additionally, 47 manuscripts written in Tibetan 
dated to around the 8*-10* century AD and found in Library Cave 17 in Dun- 
huang were examined for their particular type of paper and book format. 
This research was conducted in connection with an IDP project at the British 
Library, and the results are being entered into the IDP database. 


16 For more information about this manuscript, see; Helman-Wazny 2003. 

17 Helman-Wazny 2009a, 142-151,192-194. 

18 For the history and preliminary examination of this collection, see Helman-Wazny 2009c or 
Mejor / Helman-Wazny / Thupten Kunga Chashab 2010. 

19 Books singled out to represent different styles of Tibetan binding are: 13162, MS 13092, OR 
11376, OR 14727 (1-2), OR 14728, OR 15190, OR 15193, OR MS 12163, TIB CC 074, TIB CC 101, TIB CC 
114-115. 

20 These books were 13162 and OR 15190. 



Tibetan manuscripts: Between History and Science 


297 


6 Library of Tibetan Works and Archives founded by the XIV Dalai Lama of 
Tibet in 1970, surveyed in March 2005. This is one of the most important 
institutions in the wtorld dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of 
Tibetan Culture. There are more than 70,000 Tibetan manuscripts and doc¬ 
uments preserved in the library, and the collection is still expanding. The 
history of the collection is almost impossible to trace, because a large number 
of objects in it have lost their identities. It is not knovm where the majority 
were taken from and what their origin is. The purpose of my visit was a con¬ 
servation survey for this collection. Additionally, three manuscripts, a couple 
of freelance wooden covers and a selection of administrative documents were 
particularly examined.^^ I also had the opportunity to examine writing tools 
and two gold manuscripts from the collection of the Tibetan Museum situ¬ 
ated in the same building. 

7 Tibetan Museum in Lhasa, holds one interesting object in particular; a book 
vnritten on birch bark and bound with a leather cover. I considered this item 
for research on bookbinding styles. However, it was not accessible for closer 
examination. 

8 Cornell University, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, where an illuminated 
cover and frontispiece, part of a manuscript written in gold on black paper, 
were examined. 

9 Columbia University Library, Rare Book and Manuscript Collection, from 
which five gold manuscripts were examined. They were examined for textual 
content by Robert Thurman. The source of the manuscripts is unclear, 
although they may have been among the Tibetan manuscripts transferred 
from the East Asian Library to Herbert Lehman American History Collections 
in 1980/81, kept presently by the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Colum¬ 
bia University. 


21 To find more information in materials published by the library, see; The Library of Tibetan 
Works and Archives 1997. The manuscripts under study have acc. No. 14459, 14532, 23585. At the 
same time, about 300 historical and administrative documents were catalogued and examined 
by Prof Schwiegers’ team of researchers from Bonn University. 

22 Helman-Wazny 2008. 



298 


Agnieszka Helman-Wazny 


References 

Berkwitz, Stephen C. / Schober, Juliane / Brown, Claudia (eds.) (2009), Buddhist Manuscript 
Cultures: Knowledge, Ritual and Art, New York: Routledge. 

Blordor (ed.) (1990), sDe srid sangs rgyas rgya mtsho, mChod sdong ’dzam gling rgyan gcig gi 
dkarchag, Tibet National publishing house (Bod Ijongs mi dmngs dpe skrun khang). 

Carter, John / Barker, Ntcolas (lOOtt), ABC for Book Collectors, Newcastle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press 
and British Library. 

Gruijs, Albert (1972), “Codicology or the Archaeology of the book? A false dilemma”, in: 
Quaerendo 2, no. 2, 87-108. 

Helman-Wazny, Agnieszka (2003), “The Diamond Sutra in the Collection of the Pomeranian 
Library of Szczecin in the Historical and Artistic Context of Buddhist Books from Central 
Asia”, in: Journal of Conservation-Restoration lA, no. 3-A, A9-57. 

Helman-Wazny, Agnieszka (2007), “Tibetan manuscripts: scientific examination and 

conservation approaches”, in: jaques, Shulla (ed.), Edinburgh Conference Papers2006: 
Proceedings from the Fifth international Conference of the Institute of Paper Conservation 
and First international Conference of the Institute of Conservation, Book and Paper Group, 
London: Institute of Conservation (ICON), 247-256. 

Helman-Wazny, Agnieszka (2008), Examination of the Tibetan illuminated book cover and 
frontispiece of Eight Thousand Lines Perfection of Wisdom Sutra (Acc. Number: 2006.028 
a,b). Report for H. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. 

Helman-Wazny, Agnieszka (2009a), Sztuka tybetahskich ksiqg klasztornych {The Art of Tibetan 
Traditional Books), Warszawa: publishing house Trio. 

Helman-Wazny, Agnieszka (2009b), “Local papermaking, paper trade and book-culture 

promotion in Inner Asia”, in: Levlin, J.-E. (ed.), IPH Congress Book 17/2008, Stockholm/ 
Eupen: IPH., 173-186. 

Helman-Wazny, Agnieszka (2009c), “Recovering a lost literary heritage. Preliminary research 
on the Wanli bka’ 'gyur from Berlin”, in: Journal of the International Association of Tibetan 
Studies, no. 5,1-27. 

Mejor, Marek / Helman-Wazny, Agnieszka / Thupten Kunga Chashab (eds.) (2010), A Preliminary 
Report on the Wanli Kanjur Kept at the Jagiellonian Library, Krakow, Research Centre 
of Buddhist Studies, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Warsaw, Warsaw (Studia 
Buddhica 1). 

Reynolds, Valrae (1991), “Discoveries About Tibetan Manuscripts in the Newark Museum”, in: 
Hand Papermaking 6, no. 2, 20-23. 

Pal, Pratapaditya (2003), Himalayas. An Aesthetic Adventure, Chicago: The Art Institute of 
Chicago. 

Scherrer-Schaub, Cristina A. (1999), “Towards a Methodology for the Study of Old Tibetan 
Manuscripts: Dunhuang and Tabo.”, in: Tabo Studies2: Manuscripts, Texts, inscriptions 
and the Arts edited by Cristina Scherrer-Schaub and Ernst Steinkellner, 3-36. Rome: 

Istituto Italiano per I’Africa e I’Oriente. 

Scherrer-Schaub, Cristina and George Bonani (2002), “Establishing a typology of the old 

Tibetan manuscripts: a multidisciplinary approach.” in: Dunhuang Manuscript Forgeries 
edited by Susan Whitfield (2002), 184-215. London: The British Library. 

Szirmai, Janos A. (1999), The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding, London: Ashgate. 

The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (1997), Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India. 


Sam van Schaik 

Towards a Tibetan Palaeography: Developing 
a Typology of Writing Styles in Early Tibet 

1 Introduction 

The study of ancient writings, or palaeography, has been practised under that 
name in Europe since the 17* century. Growing out of the scholars’ need to read 
manuscripts in archaic writing styles, it developed into a historical classifica¬ 
tion of styles, and an analysis of how styles developed over time and in different 
places. In general the development of the field of palaeography itself has followed 
a trajectory which begins with the subjective description of the connoisseur and 
ends with precise measurement and quantative data of the scientist.^ 

When we move away from European manuscripts, palaeography has a shorter 
history. Due to British colonial interests and archeological expeditions in India a 
palaeography of Indian writing developed from the late 19* century onward, cul¬ 
minating in several important (and now standard) works that set out a typology 
of Indian scripts based on their form, date and geographical location.^ When we 
come to Tibet, it may not be an exaggeration to say that the study of Tibetan pal¬ 
aeography has yet to come into existence. Although ancient Tibetan manuscripts 
and inscriptions have been available since the early 20* century, study of the 
scripts found in these sources has been restricted to a few passing observations. 
Recently, Cristina Scherrer-Schaub has published some suggestions as to the out¬ 
lines of a Tibetan palaeography and codicology. Her preliminary periodisation 


1 I would like to thank the Leverhulme Trust for funding the project that made this research pos¬ 
sible, and Susan Whitfield for her support of the project. 1 would also like to thank Jan-Ulrich 
Sobisch for the invitation to present the paper on early Tibetan manuscript cultures that formed 
the basis for the present study, Jacqueline Austin for sharing her palaeographical research on the 
Vindolanda tablets, Bruno Laine for providing manuscript images from Tabo, Pasang Wangdu 
for discussing his discovery of tenth-century manuscripts in Central Tibet, and Kazushi Iwao and 
Imre Galambos for their valuable comments. 

2 The first exponent of ‘modern’ palaeography is often said to be Jean Mabillon (d.l707), and the 
discipline is sometimes thought to have peaked with the work of Jean Mallon (d.l982). However, 
the best example of the ‘scientific’ or quantative method in modern palaeography is perhaps 
Gilissen’s L’expertise des ecritures medievales (Gilissen 1973). 

3 The first major typological study was Georg Biihler’s Indische Palaeographie (Buhler 1896, 
translated into English in 1904). Later works often take Buhler as their basis. The most compre¬ 
hensive of the typological descriptions are Dani 1963 and Sander 1968. A recent summary of this 
material is Salomon 1998. 



300 


Sam van Schaik 


of three phases incorporates elements of Tibetan orthography, manuscript forms 
and decoration and covers the 10* century through to the 16*.'' 

What the study of Tibetan writing still lacks is that basic point of departure for 
palaeographic studies in other fields: a typology of writing styles. In the palaeog¬ 
raphy of European manuscripts, early typologies have been refined, criticised, 
or rejected in favour of new models. The very idea of a typological description 
has even been questioned. Nevertheless, this whole intellectual endeavour has 
been conducted on the basis of the script typologies developed by early palaeog¬ 
raphers.^ Typology is surely still the first step in establishing a serious palaeog¬ 
raphy. 

A script typology has a number of applications; 

(i) On the level of immediate practical use, a fully-descriptive typology is a teach¬ 
ing tool for reading manuscript sources. Most of the attendees at modern 
palaeography workshops are historians seeking this kind of instruction. 

(ii) Different styles of writing are closely linked to different socio-economic 
groups, and there is also a correspondence between styles and subject-mat¬ 
ter. Thus identification of a script type can help determine the social and his¬ 
torical context of a manuscript. Where styles can be localized, this can also 
help determine the geographical location of manuscript production. 

(iii) Through examining the morphology of styles and orthography as they 
develop over time, we can begin to describe the historical development of a 
writing system.*’ While interesting in itself, such a description also has a prac¬ 
tical application in providing us with models for dating manuscripts accord¬ 
ing to writing style. 

In setting out here a preliminary typology for Tibetan writing I hope to show how 
it can, at least potentially, be put to all of these uses. 


1.1 The Tibetan alphabet 

The Tibetan alphabet is a syllabic script, created in the mid-7th century based on 
the Indie Brahmi script of that period. The alphabet contains 30 consonants, each 


4 See Scherrer-Schaub 1999 and 2002. The typologies presented here all fall within the first 
phase of Scherrer-Schaub’s periodization. 

5 See the discussion of nomenclature in Delorez 2003,13-17. 

6 In this paper I use the word script to refer to a particular alphabet (“the Tibetan script” for 
example); I use orthography to refer to the formal structure of individual letters; and I use style to 
refer to variant ways of writing a script, which need not differ very much in orthography. 



Tibetan Palaeography 


301 


of which contains the inherent vowel -a. Vowel modifiers for the sounds -i, -u, 
-e and -o are written above or below the consonants. In addition, letters may be 
“stacked” vertically, and there are special forms for some letters in these stacks. 
The basic unit is the syllable, and syllables are separated with a small dot called 
tsheg. Larger units (somewhat, but not exactly like sentences) are separated with 
a vertical stroke called shad. Tibetan is written horizontally from left to right. 

The Tibetan tradition distinguishes two basic types of Tibetan script, the 
“headed” or uchen (dbu can) and the “headless” or ume (dbu med). The first 
script is characterized by short horizontal lines (the ‘heads’) along the tops of 
many letters, like the serifs of the Latin script, while the second script dispenses 
with these lines. There are numerous different styles within the headless script, 
including a simple style for teaching children, ornamental styles for official 
edicts, and a very cursive style for handwriting.^ 

These styles are explained in numerous modern Tibetan calligraphy man¬ 
uals.® The classic study of Tibetan writing, from which most later accounts are 
dravm is the White Beryl of Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho (1653-1705). These calligraphic 
traditions must be treated with caution by the palaeographer. They are received 
traditions which, while they may derive from older models, are not based on the 
study of orignal specimens of ancient writing. The calligraphy manuals are also 
fundamentally pedagogical rather than descriptive, setting out idealised model 
script forms.® The quite different aims of the calligrapher and palaeographer mean 


7 Styles of dbu med include the ’bru tsha, the dpe tshugs (‘book form’), and the ’khyug yig (‘run¬ 
ning script’), and variations on these known as tshugs ring (‘long form’), tshugs thung (‘short 
form’) and tshugs chung (‘small form’). For a brief account, in English, of modern Tibetan writing 
styles and their functions in an official context, see French 1995,155-158. 

8 Such as Bkras Ihun dgon 2003. 

9 Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho provides some very interesting discussions of the history of writing. 
For example, he states: 

The lineage of the development of the script after Thon mi, made to spread far and wide 
by Khung po G.yu khri and Sum pa Gnod sbyin, comprises the greater and lesser Rdzab 
(rdzab chen, rdzab chung), and the greater and lesser ’Bru (’bru chen, ’bru chung). Within 
the greater Dru there are the the Li Tradition (li lugs) and the Ldan Tradition (Man lugs), the 
“straight” (shar shar ma) and “twisted” (dkyus) scripts, among others. From these, the great 
scriptures were written in the greater and lesser Rdzab; the commentaries of the Indian 
scholars were written in the greater ’Bru; and the scriptural tradition of Tibetan scholars 
was written in the lesser ’Bru. This is how the script spread. (White Beryl, p.l7) 

Although it is not clear how these traditional historical typologies might relate to the extant 
manuscripts, further work in this area may be fruitful. Some recent Tibetan calligraphy manuals 
sometimes present script forms that are said to date from the earliest period of Tibetan writing 
(often pre-dating the 7* century, when the Tibetan alphabet was almost certainly formulated). 
Flowever, as I have argued elsewhere, these “old” forms are usually either based on much later 



302 


Sam van Schaik 


that the calligraphy manuals, while they certainly should not be ignored, should 
not determine a palaeography-based typology of Tibetan writing/” 

Nor should we see the gap between calligraphic andpalaeographic approaches 
to Tibetan writing as some sort of East-West division. The two traditions are 
equally at odds in the area of European writing styles, as a recent palaeographer 
has written: 

The mutual misunderstandings between palaeographers and calligraphers, between his¬ 
torians and practitioners, each with their own distinctive goals, are not likely to be easily 
removed, despite the growing interest among palaeographers in the work of calligraphers 
and vice versa.^' 


1.2 Source materials 

In establishing a preliminary typology of Tibetan writing styles, it seems sensible 
to begin with the earliest attested styles, and to move forward from there. Thus 
the main source materials for this study are selected from the earliest surviving 
examples of Tibetan writing. These are as follows: 

(i) Stone inscriptions from Central Tibet and outlying regions of the Tibetan 
Empire, dating from the mid-8*^ to mid-9**' century. 

(ii) Wood and paper manuscripts excavated from military bases of the Tibetan 
Empire in the Central Asian desert sites of Miran and Mazar Tagh, also dating 
from the mid-8**' to mid-9* century. 

(iii) Paper manuscripts from the ‘library cave’ at Dunhuang, dating from the early 
9‘*' to end of the 10* century. 

Overall, the chronological span of these sources is from the middle of the eighth 
to the end of the 10* century - that is, the last century of the Tibetan Empire 
and the century-and-a-half that followed the fall of the empire, known in the his- 


Indic Nagari scripts or on variations on the later printed style headless script. See van Schaik 
2011. 

10 We should note here, though it is beyond the scope of this article, that the study of ancient 
writing styles in China represents perhaps the longest-established calligraphic tradition, and 
one that in its attention to the stylistic and orthographic variants of old writing forms is perhaps 
the closest to palaeography as it is defined here. See for example Boltz 1994. 

11 Delorez 2003, 27. It is clear that palaeographers can learn from the practical experience of 
the calligraphers, and palaeographers who also practice calligraphy may be at some advantage. 
Michelle Brown, a distinguished palaeographer-scribe, has co-authored a book on European 
scripts with a calligrapher (Brown and Lovett 1999). 



Tibetan Palaeography 


303 


torical tradition as ‘the age of fragmentation’. As we will see below, the fall of 
the empire in the middle of the 9* century marks a paradigm shift in the devel¬ 
opment of Tibetan writing, and thus the typology will be presented here in two 
parts, falling on either side of that shift. 

It is too early at this stage to try to identify local styles of Tibetan vnriting. In 
general the styles from the imperial period seem to be quite consistent across 
the Tibetan imperial realm. After the fall of the empire it seems more likely that 
we are seeing more localized writing styles. Nevertheless, some of the styles of 
the Dunhuang manuscripts may be compared to contemporary and later develop¬ 
ments in writing in Central Tibet, as some recently discovered manuscripts indi¬ 
cate (see below). Manuscripts from the 11^^ to century - primarily from the 
Tabo collection in Western Tibet and the Kharakhoto collection from the Tangut 
kingdom in Central Asia - are helpful models for comparison. 


1.3 Methodology 

Many palaeographers are of the opinion that palaeography is an art, rather than 
a science. For them, extensive firsthand experience of manuscripts is the only 
means to acquiring the ability to judge script types and hence to date and localize 
a manuscript. In this idea of palaeography, the palaeographer is a connoisseur, 
whose judgement must be taken on faith, and cannot be fully communicated to 
an outsider. It is largely derived from that least communicable of experiences, the 
‘general impression’. 

More recently, especially in the latter half the twentiehave attempted a more 
scientific approach to their subject, based on the close study of the order and 
direction of strokes - known as the ductus - in individual letter forms. While 
there have been some exhaustive studies of letter forms based on such precise 
measurements, most palaeographers have settled on isolating and analysing 
certain key letter forms that are specific to a certain script, and using these to 
help define that script. This kind of work lends itself much more easily to being 
taught to others than the subjective judgements of the connoisseur. 

The typology of early Tibetan writing presented here does inevitably owe 
much the author’s own general impressions, gained from working closely with 
the manuscripts for over ten years. However, it also attempts to render these 
impressions communicable by oulining general features and describing key letter 
forms from the different script types - although in this case space will only allow 
a very brief illustration of this procedure. 

The typology below is divided into two sections, the first on the styles in use 
during the Tibetan imperial period, and the second on the styles from the follow- 


304 


Sam van Schaik 


ing century-and-a-half. For each style type we will briefly present (i) the manu¬ 
script or epigraphic sources, with their dates and location, (ii) a general descrip¬ 
tion of the style including one or more key letter forms, and (iii) where relevant, 
the lines of development that can be traced to the styles of later manuscripts. 


2 Styles from the Tibetan imperial period 

2.1 The epigraphic Style 

2.1.1 Sources 

The earliest instances of Tibetan writing were probably carved into wood. None 
of these are now extant. In fact, the earliest examples of Tibetan writing now 
available postdate the invention of the script itself by over a century. These are 
the inscriptions on pillars and rock faces dating from the mid-8* to mid-9‘*’ centu¬ 
ries. Despite their distance from the first Tibetan writings, they are still very early 
records, and represent the first known form of the Tibetan alphabet, the style 
which I will term epigraphic, because of its appearance on stone inscriptions. We 
can divide the early Tibetan inscriptions into three groups. The first, containing 
the most important sources for the epigraphic style, is the pillar inscriptions from 
Central Tibet; the second is a group of religious inscriptions from Northeastern 
Tibet (Amdo); and the third is various examples of graffiti from the Ladakh area. 



Fig- 1: Detail from the Lhasa treaty pillar. Photograph courtesy of Kazushi Iwao. 


Tibetan Palaeography 


305 


The inscribed pillars (rdo rings) of Central Tibet are usually four-sided columns 
capped with a square base and an ornamental capital/^ 

The Central Tibetan pillar inscriptions are generally records of a sworn 
agreement {gtsigs), whether an edict, charter, or treaty. Most are direct records 
of the king’s own authoritative speech, although some were commissioned by 
ministers. Thus the context for this writing style is courtly and official. We know 
nothing about the people who carved these pillars, but if the technique of Indian 
inscriptions was adopted, there would have been a scribe who marked the letters 
on the pillar, which were then inscribed by professional stone-cutters.^^ 


2.1.2 General description 

The writing style of the pillar inscriptions is not identical in every inscription. The 
inscriptions cover a period of about sixty years, and we do see developments in 
both style and orthography during this time. For the purposes of this description, 
I will concentrate on the similarities rather than the differences, and argue that 
there was an epigraphic style in the Central Tibet. The style resembles in many 
aspects the Indie scripts that were the basis or the invention of the Tibetan script 
in the first half of the century, as I have shown elsewhere.^'* Indeed, the Indie 
scripts of this period are known to Western palaeographers as ‘acute-angled’ 
scripts.^ As with other epigraphic scripts, the writing style of the Tibetan pillar 
inscriptions tends to prefer straight lines, and does not extend lines any further 
than necessary. In a similar fashion to Roman Capitals, the letters are evenly pro¬ 
portioned so that most would fit within the shape of a square (though the need to 
vertically stack Tibetan letters requires a more flexible model). 

This “square” character extends to the four-cornered shape of the letter ba, 
and other letter elements like the head of ga. The “heads” of the letters also 
adhere to this principle, being much longer than in later styles in letters like pa 
and la (this again harks back to the Indie models for the Tibetan script).^® Other 
features that are perhaps closer to the script’s Indie elements than to later styles 
are the diagonal line that extends all the way from the bottom left to the top right 


12 On the inscriptions, see Richardson 1985, Li and Goblin 1987, and Iwao and Hill 2008. 

13 See Salomon 1998, 65-66. 

14 See van Schaik 2011. 

15 See Salomon 1998, 39-40. 

16 Note that this feature is true of the earlier inscriptions, but not of the later, such as the Treaty 
Pillar. 



306 


Sam van Schaik 


of the pha, and the fact that the two downstrokes of the ta both descend from the 
letter’s head. 

The pillar inscriptions are also our best source for the archaic orthography 
of Tibetan writing, including the strong da {da drag), supporting ’a {’a rten), the 
reversed i vowel (gi gu rlog), the my- conjunct and the double tsheg. The Tibetan 
tradition record standardisations of language and orthography during the reigns 
of the Tibetan emperors Khri Srong Ide brtsan (756-797) and Khri Lde srong 
brtsan (c.800-815). Indeed, over the six decades covered by the inscriptions, we 
do see some of these archaic orthographic features gradually being purged from 
the writing. In the inscriptions dating from after the second standardisation, for 
example, there is a decline in the frequency of the use of the strong da, the sup¬ 
porting ’a and the double tsheg}^ 

(iii) Further development 

The epigraphic style seems to be closest to the earliest Tibetan script that was the 
basis for all of the styles represented in the imperial period. Other styles, as we 
will see below, can be shown to be derived from the basic shapes of the epigraphic 
style, with variations caused by the exigencies of writing with pen and ink. 


2.2 The square Style 

2.2.1 Sources 

This style is seen exclusively in the documents from the library cave at Dun- 
huang. As mentioned above, these manuscripts date from the early 9* century 
to the end of the 10*. It seems that the documents in the square style may date 
from the earlier part of this period, during or shortly after the Tibetan occupation 
of Dunhuang. Perhaps the best example of the square style are the manuscripts 


17 These changes are clearly seen in the pillar edicts from the reign of Khri lde srong btsan 
(c.800-815) and Khri gtsug lde brtsan (815-C.838). In the eastern pillar at the Sha {zhwa) temple 
(dated to 804-5) there is no supporting ’a and the double tsheg is restricted to the end of a line 
of text. In the western pillar (812), the da drag is also absent. Two other imperial pillars from the 
same period, at Karchung (skar cung) and at the tomb of Khri lde srong brtsan (dating to slightly 
after his death in 815), also lack these archaic features. The Lhasa Treaty Pillar of 822 also lacks 
these features with the exception of the occasional appearance of the da drag. Note however that 
the Kongpo rock inscription, which also dates to the reign of Khri lde srong brtsan employs most 
of the archaic orthography, suggesting that the royal reforms were initially restricted to inscrip¬ 
tions produced by the emperor and his court. 



Tibetan Palaeography 


307 


:r 


^i') 

Fig. 2: The Old Tibetan Annals(l); lOL Tib J 750. Reproduced by kind permission of © The British 
Library. 


of the Old Tibetan Annals}^ Other manuscripts in this style include (i) historical 
or semi-historical texts (ii) legal texts regarding penalties for theft, hunting and 
other crimes (iii) dice divination texts, which may be related to the legal texts, as 
dice divination seems to have been used to settle legal disputes,^® (iv) texts on 
royal funerary practices.^” 

These diverse texts perhaps show one common theme: they all seem to 
emanate from the interests of the central Tibetan administration: imperial record¬ 
keeping, legal edicts from the imperial court and rituals for imperial funerals. 
One striking physical feature uniting these manuscripts is that almost all of them 
are copied onto the blank verso side of Chinese scrolls, indicating that they were 
not brought to Dunhuang from Central Tibet. Thus the square style seems to 
have been used in local copies taken from official documents, the originals of 


18 These are lOL Tib J 750 and Pelliot tibetain 1288 (version 1) and Or.8210/S.187 (version 2). 
Another Annals fragment recently identified by Kazushi Iwao in the Institute of Oriental Studies, 
St Petersburg (Dx.l2851) is written in the same square style (see Iwao 2011). 

19 See Dotson 2007. 

20 Note that other similar documents like the Old Tibetan Chronicle (Pelliot tibetain 1287) and 
the annals of the A zha principality (lOL Tib J1368) are not written in this square style. 



308 


Sam van Schaik 


which may have come from Central Tibet. In the case of the Annals, this has been 
explained by the fact that the dating system therein was used for official corre¬ 
spondence and legal contracts.^^ Since the Annals and other documents in this 
style are concerned with the interests of the Central Tibetan imperial authorities, 
there is a thematic link between these manuscripts and the pillar edicts, just as 
there is a stylistic continuity between the epigraphic style and the square style. 


2.2.2 General description 

In general we can say that the square style is based on the epigraphic style, and 
that the variations from the epigraphic style can be explained by the exigencies of 
writing with pen and ink on paper, rather than inscribing with a chisel in stone. 
The changes that occur in the transition from inscription to pen-and-ink writing in 
other cultures have been noted by many palaeographers. Perhaps the most thor¬ 
ough attempts to define such principles is found in the work of Peter van Sommers, 
whose graphetic principles are based on empirical studies as well as the analysis of 
historical scripts, and address the issues of “how and where the hand approaches 
the writing surface, the manner in which the hand and arm work as a stroke is 
made, how writers and drawers anchor one stroke to another, and so on.”^^ Fol¬ 
lowing other palaeographers, we can refer to these principles as principles of ease. 

The square style copies the short, largely straight, strokes of the epigraphic 
style, with an even width of line throughout. We begin to the see the effect of 
pen-and-ink writing in the small ticks and extended length in the vowel signs, 
and in the collapse of the head of the ga from a four-cornered to a three-cornered 
shape. We also begin to see the three-cornered ha alongside the four-cornered 


21 Uray 1975; Takeuchi 1995, 24-25; Dotson 2009,11-12. 

22 It is possible that the original documents were, in some cases, wooden tallies. There are sev¬ 
eral references in the Annals to records being made on red tallies (khram dmar po): lOL Tib J 750 
11.55, 61,116, 136,157, 248. See Uebach 2008. A gap of one year in the manuscript of the Annals 
(lOL Tib J 750 again) might be explained by the absence of the tally for this year. 

23 See van Sommers 1991, 4. Eight principles are illustrated by van Sommers. To summarize, the 
principles (as applied to right-handed writers) are preferences for; 

(i) drawing lines in the directions of two, five and seven o’clock 

(ii) anchoring lines to a fixed point 

(iii) keeping close control by minizing the stroke area 

(iv) starting at the top left 

(v) drawing circles anticlockwise 

(vi) progressing from one stroke to an adjacent one 

(vii) completing similar strokes together 
(viii) keeping paper contact 



Tibetan Palaeography 


309 


version. There is a tendency for straight descenders to incline slightly to the right 
(five o’clock - one of the easiest directions to articulate for right-handed scribes), 
though this tendency is not nearly so pronounced as in the other written styles. 


2.2.3 Further development 

While the square style seems to have been rather limited in its use in the docu¬ 
ments available to us, it - or the epigraphic style on which it is based - seems 
to have served as a model for the later ‘headed’ {dbu can) writing used in wood¬ 
block printing (primarily from the 15*** century onwards). This is quite reasonable, 
as the woodblocks are carved, and so represent a return to a kind of inscribed 
writing. There is in fact a Tibetan tradition that the script was revised at the end 
of the 10*** century based on the style of the pillar inscriptions.^'* 


2.3 The sutra Style 

2.3.1 Sources 

During the first half of the 9*** century masses of copies of Buddhist scriptures 
{sutra) were produced on the order of the Tibetan emperors. Among the Dunhuang 
manuscript collection we have several thousand scrolls containing the Homage to 
Aparimitdyus Sutra {Aparimitdyumdma-sutra) and the scrolls and loose-leaf pothi 
manuscripts of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra {Prajhdpdramitd-sutrd) in its various 
forms. We also have copies of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra that are thought to have 
been brought to Dunhuang from Central Tibet. Documents relating to the copying 
of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra indicate that this was carried out during the reigns 
of Khri Ide gtsug brtsan (815-C.838) through to the Tibetan king reigning at the time 
the Tibetan rulers were defeated in Dunhuang in 848.^^ Thus these manuscripts 
probably date from the 820s to the 840s. A few other sutra-style manuscripts from 
the imperial period were found in the desert sites of Miran and Endere.^® 


24 See Ribur Ngawang Gyatso 1984. 

25 The key document here is Pelliot tibetain 999, which has been the subject of numerous stud¬ 
ies. Translations can be found in Scherrer-Schaub 1991 and Yamaguchi 1996. Kazushi Iwao has 
completed a thorough study of the process by which these manuscripts were ordered, copied and 
paid for, which will be published in the near future. 

26 For example, the Saddharmapundarlka-sutra manuscript from Endere studied in Karashima 
2006 and Or.15000/303, a folio of the Usnlsasitdpatrandma-dharanl from Miran, catalogued and 
pictured as no. 404 in Takeuchi 1997-8. 



310 


Sam van Schaik 


\0>) I 


Fig. 3: Aparimitayurnama-sutra: lOLTib J 310.1210. Reproduced by kind permission of ® The 
British Library. 


2.3.2 General description 

The sutra style is somewhat heterogeneous. Marcelle Lalou, in a series of arti¬ 
cles published in the 1950s and 60s pointed to two kinds of material; that which 
had been produced locally in Dunhuang, and that which had been brought from 
further afield, perhaps from Central Tibet. Though there are clear stylistic dif¬ 
ferences between the two groups identified by Lalou, and future studies will no 
doubt develop useful subdivisions, I prefer here to make some useful generaliza¬ 
tions in order to define the broad outlines of the writing styles across these siitm 
manuscripts.^^ 

The principles of ease that we saw acting to some extent on the square style 
are fully in evidence in the sutra style. The script is recognizable as a formal style 
(as against more cursive styles that we will come to shortly) but can be written 
more quickly than the square style. In general, this is effected through the reduc¬ 
tion of strokes and pen-lifts. In most examples of this style we also see those 
secondary characteristics that are the side-effects of quick writing, including the 
increasing length of final strokes (mainly descenders and vowel signs). Another 


27 See Lalou 1954,1957 and 1964. 



Tibetan Palaeography 


311 


consistent feature of the style is the collapse of four-cornered shapes like ba and 
the head of ga into three-cornered, triangular shape.^® 

We also see a tendency for lines to move away from the vertical, in the direc¬ 
tions of easier articulation at 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock, and there are sometimes 
small ticks on the end of strokes, vyhere the pen is moved toward the next letter 
before it has been fully lifted; these two features sometimes combine to produce a 
slight ‘wave’ shape in descenders and shad. The scribes’ prefererence for keeping 
the pen in contact with the paper sometimes creates loops, for instance at the 
bottom of pa, ra and sa. Some corners may be rounded off, for instance at the top 
right of the ga. There is some variation in heavy and light strokes, but this appears 
to be caused by variable pressure on a flexible-nib pen, rather than careful use 
of a calligraphic nib. Though most of these sutra manuscripts are plain, some 
Perfection of Wisdom manuscripts by Tibetan scribes are ornamented with zig-zag 
lines and occasional lotus flowers.^® 

Despite the variation in the individual hands of the hundreds of scribes 
who wrote these sutras, and the typological difference between those manu¬ 
scripts produced in Dunhuang and those produced closer to Central Tibet, the 
general characteristics outlined here seem to justify our identification of a style 
specific to these manuscripts. This style meets the specific need for the produc¬ 
tion large quantities of written material. It was taught to scribes (most of whom, 
in Dunhuang, were Chinese), to be written at some speed, while retaining leg¬ 
ibility. Though the manuscripts were written to fulfill the demands of imperial 
patronage, as an exercise in religious merit, legibility and accuracy were consid¬ 
ered important. Manuscripts were edited, and where too many errors appeared, 
rejected. Since manuscripts produced in Dunhuang could be exported to temples 
in Central Tibet, this level of legibility had to be applied as an imperial, rather 
than a local, standard.^” 


28 This is an example of van Sommers’ second principle, by which lines are anchored to a fixed 
point (here the top of the triangle). 

29 For example, in Pelliot tibetain 1307 (f.2v) one of the Perfection of Wisdom manuscripts origi¬ 
nating from Central Tibet in the imperial period, according to Lalou (see Lalou 1954,1957,1964), 
we see circles, zig-zag lines and a lotus flower motif ornamenting the text at the end of a “vol¬ 
ume” (bam po). 

30 Pasang Wangdu has seen Perfection of Wisdom Sutra manuscripts in several Central Tibetan 
monasteries which not only appear identical to the Dunhuang copies, but were signed by the 
same scribes and editors as found in the Dunhuang manuscripts (personal communication. May 
2009). This suggests that Dunhuang may have been one of the major Tibetan imperial scripto¬ 
ria for siitra production, and at least on one occasion supplied manuscripts to Central Tibetan 
monasteries. 



312 


Sam van Schaik 


2.3.3 Further development 

The most important aspect of the sutra style in terms of the later development 
of Tibetan writing is the long descenders. This movement away from the square 
shape of earlier writing influenced later Tibetan ‘headed’ forms, which even in 
carved woodblock prints preserve these longer descenders. The main difference 
from the style found in later siitra manuscripts is the general absence of shading, 
the calligraphic alternation between light and heavy strokes that later became the 
norm in this genre of manuscript. This shading can be seen in some of the Tabo 
manuscripts, though in others it remains relatively undeveloped.^^ 


2.4 The official styles 

2.4.1 Sources 

There are two types of official writing style which we may class as ‘headed’ and 
‘headless’. The latter is almost certainly the ancestor of all later Tibetan head¬ 
less {dbu med) styles. Both styles are seen in the manuscripts from Dunhuang and 
the military bases of Miran and Mazar Tagh (in some cases both are found in the 
same manuscript). Almost all of these manuscripts can be clearly shown to date 
from the Tibetan imperial period, and a few of them were almost certainly written 
in Central Tibet.The headless official style can also be compared with certain 
rock inscriptions from Ladakh, which probably date to the late 8* and early 9* 
centuries. 

There is great stylistic consistency across these manuscripts, despite their 
being from different locations and in the handwritings of different scribes. 
There is also a remarkable consistency of subject-matter; these manuscripts are 
mainly official registers of land and people, contracts for sales and loans, and 
letters between local officials. Many of these manuscripts contain seals, either 
the square official seals, the small round personal seals or the so-called “finger 


31 Cristina Scherrer-Schaub (1999) includes the feature of “distinct well proportioned elongated 
script, in thick and thin strokes” in the third phase of her periodisation, which begins around 
the IS® century. 

32 The two Central Tibetan manuscripts so far identified are Pelliot tibetain 1085 (from Than 
dkar) and lOL Tib J1459 (from ’On cang do). 



Tibetan Palaeography 


313 


seals”.Since the official styles do not appear in other manuscripts, they appear 
to have been taught to a specific class of official scribes.^ 


2.4.2 General description 
(a) headed 

The official styles are notable for a change in the ductus of several letters - that is, 
the number and order of strokes is changed for the sake of swifter execution. The 
headed version of the official style is similar to the sutra style, though there is no 
overt lengthening of downstrokes and vowel strokes (which we often see in the 
sutra style) and the general impression is of a compact and efficient handwriting. 
As in the sutra style, the speed of writing sometimes causes ticks at the end of 
lines, and a tendency to incline in the direction of writing, to the right. 


Fig- 4: Rules of management of scribes In Dunhuang, Imperial period: lOLTlb J 1359(A). Repro¬ 
duced by kind permission of © The British Library. 


(b) headless 

The headless version of the official style is a fully cursive script, eliminating all 
strokes except those that are absolutely necessary for recognition of the letters - 
including the heads that are found in all other styles from the imperial period. 
We also see the rounding-out of corners, another fearture of fully cursive styles in 


33 On the Tibetan seals see Takeuchi 1995, 107-115. Those among these manuscripts without 
such seals should probably be considered to be copies or drafts. 

34 The evidence for this statement is discussed in van Schaik 2012. 



314 


Sam van Schaik 


Other writing systems. Thus the style is characterised by a rounded appearance. 
The ‘wave’ shape is also apparent in longer strokes like shad. 

j,.r,gw) j^t^'<v«5p^T5i‘ny*ei 
<- j»h n ■ j I ( f 

Fig- 5: Official register of scribes in DunhuangrIOLTibJ 1359(B). Reproduced by kind permission 
of © The British Library. 


(iii) Further development 

The headed version of the official style is not clearly linked to later developments 
in the script, but may be taken as an early analogue of the cursive headed style 
of modern Bhutan. On the other hand, the headless version of the official style 
represents the first clearly dated appearance of a fully-fledged headless script in 
Tibet, and is probably the precursor of later headless, or ume (dbu med) styles, as 
I have argued elsewhere. 


2.5 The monastic style 

2.5.1 Sources 

This style is seen a relatively limited number among the hundreds of Tibetan 
Buddhist manuscripts from the Dunhuang cave. These manuscripts are from the 
circle of the Dunhuang-based translator Go Chddrup, who was active during the 
last decades of the Tibetan occupation of Dunhuang, during which time he made 
several translations from Chinese into Tibetan, some of which were well-knovm 


35 See van Schaik 2012. 




Tibetan Palaeography 


315 


*3r><^A,n 4 

^-s;^ «^‘a <^ S^S' 

4 

^ • 'p^' '>x‘ • *■ 


Fig. 6: Yogacara commentary: lOLTib J 301. Reproduced by kind permission of © The British 
Library. 


enough to be included in the Tibetan canon centuries later.The Dunhuang 
collections include several of these translations, as vyell as treatises vyritten by 
Chodrup in Tibetan and Chinese. Many of these manuscripts are written in a 
similar handwriting, and Daishun Ueyama has argued that some are in the hand 
of Chodrup himself.^^ Whether this is the case or not, we can identify a consis¬ 
tent style across these manuscripts, closely analogous to the style of the official 
manuscripts, yet different enough in form and content that it seems justified to 
refer to it as a separate style, which I call ‘monastic’ because of its association 
with Chodrup and his circle. 


36 The ethnicity of Go Chodrup (’Go Chos grub), also known by a Chinese name, Facheng ii®, 
is disputed, with some scholars seeing him as a Tibetan, others as Chinese. Ueyama 1990 has 
pointed out that while his surname could be a Tibetan name, the spelling (’go) suggests that it is 
a transliteration of the Chinese surname Wu 

37 Ueyama 1995,93-94. The manuscripts that Ueyama identifies as possibly being in Chos grub’s 
own handwriting are: ITJ686 (p.93, pl.l2), 687 (p.93, pl.l3), 217 (p.93, pl.l3), 218 (p.93, pl.l3), and 
PT2205 (=P.ch.2035) (p.93-4, pl.22). Ueyama identifies his Chinese hand in the colophons of: 
P.ch.2886 (p.94, pl.21), Or.8210/S.3927, (p.94, pl.30), and Or.8210/S.5309, (p.94, pl.31). 




316 


Sam van Schaik 


2.5.2 General description 

The monastic style is, like the headless official style, essentially cursive. Even 
more than the latter, manuscripts often show signs of having been written at great 
speed. The letters look more ‘loose’ in that strokes are often left uncompleted, 
leaving small gaps in the letters; for example, the head of the ga may be left quite 
open. The letters are small and compact, and unlike most other cursive forms 
seen in the manuscripts, they tend to extend further horizontally than vertically. 
Legibility seems to have been of only minor importance for the writer(s) of these 
manuscripts, and we might speculate that they were mainly intended to be read 
only by a small group of monastic ‘insiders’. 


2.5.3 Further development 

The development of this style might perhaps be traced in the interlinear annota¬ 
tions seen in many of the 10* century Dunhuang manuscripts, and in the later 
Tibetan tradition. Such interlinear annotations are usually written a cursive yet 
compact hand akin to this style. 


3 Styles from the post-imperial period 

Tracing the development of the Tibetan script after the fall of the empire is a for¬ 
midable task - even when we are restricted to the limited sample represented 
by the Dunhuang manuscripts. As we have seen, most of the manuscripts and 
inscriptions dating from the imperial period were probably created by a specific 
class of scribes trained in a particular style. By contrast, the manuscripts dating 
from the post-imperial period - from the late 9* century through to the 10* - 
testify to the emergence of a much greater diversity of writing styles. 

A recent traditional account states that “later, there was no universally 
accepted script because the master scribes [each] adopted their individual style of 
writing.’’^® This situation is said to have continued until a standardisation attrib¬ 
uted to the prince of Gyantse, Rah brtan Kun bzang ’phags pa (1389-1442).^® The 


38 Ribur Ngawang Gyatso 1984, 29. 

39 This prince is better known as the sponsor of the Them spangs ma edition of the bka’ ’gyur. 
See Harrison 1996. Rab brtan Kun bzang ’phags pa’s work formed the basis for the standardiza¬ 
tion of Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho (Ribur Ngawang Gyatso 1984, 30). 



Tibetan Palaeography 


317 


post-imperial Tibetan Dunhuang manuscripts are certainly in accord with this 
description of a time when individual expression dominated the field of writing. 
The main difficulty in discussing the development of writing styles after the fall of 
the Tibetan empire is trying to establish whether a group of similar manuscripts 
represents a specific taught style, or just the pecularities of a particular scribe’s 
handvnriting. We will see below that it is sometimes possible to identify a group 
of manuscripts as being in the hand of one particular scribe. First of all however, 
let us look at a few general categories of post-imperial manuscripts and see what 
this tells us about the development of Tibetan writing after the fall of the empire. 

3.1 Epistolatory styles 

3.1.1 Sources 

It used to be thought that all of the Tibetan manuscripts from Dunhuang dated to 
the period of Tibetan occupation in the area, which ended in 848. In recent years, 
largely through the work of Geza Uray and Tsuguhito Takeuchi, quite a number of 
the Tibetan manuscripts from the cave have been dated to after the fall of Tibetan 
rule, right through to the years before the closing of the cave at the beginning of 
the 11* century. Among the first manuscripts to be proved to date from this later 
period were letters. 



Fig. 7: Letter from theTsongka region, 960s; lOLTib J 75A(a). Reproduced by kind permission of 
© The British Library. 


3.1.2 General description 


These post-imperial letters, while not exactly sharing a coherent style, are gen¬ 
erally written in a headless style that is more calligraphic than the official and 


318 


Sam van Schaik 


monastic styles. Thus the movement towards ease of articulation apparently 
reached its fullest expression in the official and monastic headless styles of the 
imperial period, and what follows is a trend towards introducing calligraphic ele¬ 
ments into this headless style. Such movements between cursive and calligraphic 
styles have been observed in the development of European scripts as well. The 
palaeographer Albert Derolez describes this very process in the evolution of the 
‘documentary script’ in Europe, and concludes: “Seen in this way, the history of 
script might be described as an alternation of increasing cursivity, on the one 
hand, and consolidation and calligraphy, on the other. 

The new calligraphic elements in epistolatory writing include: (i) the length¬ 
ening of descenders - including shad and tsheg - and vowel signs - such as the 
zhabs kyu - well beyond what is needed for letter recognition; (ii) a return to 
sharper angles in some letters, such as da and m; (iii) alternation between heavy 
and light lines (known as “shading”), suggesting the use of a flat-nibbed pen.'*^ 
The letter ga is usually in an angular open-topped form that is rarely seen in the 
imperial period. 


3.1.3 Further development 

The lengthening of descenders and vowel signs in this later epistolatory style may 
be an early stage in a development toward the letter-writing style of later, and 
contemporary Tibet known as khyug yig (“running script”). The best example of 
this is a letters contained in the manuscript lOL Tib J 754, which was probably 
written in Liangzhou (modern Wuwei) by a Tibetan called Smar khams Rin chen 
rdo rje in the 960s. Though this is by no means equivalent to the fully-formed 
khyug yig, his handwriting displays a fluidity and the very long flourishes for 
vowel signs that characterize the khyug style.'*^ 


40 Derolez 2003, 5. Elsewhere Derolez attempts a detailed description of “the various ways of 
introducing greater formality in an informal cursive script” (Derolez 2003, 128-130). These in¬ 
clude (i) a reduction in the number of ligatures, (ii) a move back to a more complicated ductus 
(i.e. more strokes), (iii) a move toward shading (the calligraphic alternation of wide and narrow 
strokes) where a broad-nibbed pen is used, and (iv) an increasing angularity. 

41 The shading is more evident in some manuscripts that others; Pelliot tibetain 1129 is a good 
example. 

42 On the dating and social context of this manuscript, see van Schaik and Galambos 2010. For 
models of various kinds of khyug script, and the similar tshugs thung, see Bkra Ihun dgon 2003. 



Tibetan Palaeography 


319 



/ ‘k 

' J l| 


Fig. 8: Letter from Liangzhou, 960s: lOLTib J 754(a). Reproduced by kind permission of ©The 
British Library. 


3.2 Buddhist manuscript styles 

3.2.1 Sources 

Subsequent to his dating of a number of secular documents to the post-imperial 
period, Tsuguhito Takeuchi showed that many Buddhist manuscripts can also be 
dated to this later period. In a recent catalogue of tantric manuscripts from the 
Dunhuang collections, Jacob Dalton and myself have suggested that the majority 
of these manuscripts date from the post-imperial period, and a significant pro¬ 
portion from the latter half of the 10**’ century. This large group of post-imperial 
Buddhist manuscripts contains a vast array of writing styles.'*^ 

Until recently, there was no way to determine whether these styles existed 
elsewhere in the Tibetan cultural realm, or were specific to the areas in which the 
Dunhuang manuscripts were written, all apparently within the northern Amdo/ 
Hexi corridor area. However, recent discovery of four Bonpo manuscripts inside 
the ancient Gathang {dga’ thang) stupa in central Tibet has provided striking ana¬ 
logues to the post-imperial Dunhuang manuscripts. Each of the four manuscripts 
is written in a style that may be compared to similar styles in the Dunhuang 
manuscripts. Most significantly are the very close analogues with the ‘headless’ 
styles, as we will see below.'*'' 


43 On dating issues, see Takeuchi 2012, and Dalton, Davis and van Schaik 2007. 

44 See Pa tshab pa sangs Dbang ’dus 2007. The author notes the similarity of the styles of these 
manuscripts to the writing in the Dunhuang manuscripts. 



320 


Sam van Schaik 


3.2.2 General description 
(a) Headed styles 

The headed script continued to be used in many different genres of Buddhist and 
non-Buddhist text, and in a variety of forms almost defying any general descrip¬ 
tion. For Buddhist scriptures scribes often followed the methods of the imperial- 
period sutra style very closely, so that these manuscripts are among the most 
difficult to date on stylistic grounds.''^ Those manuscripts in which the style is 
notably different from the sutra style share one significant characteristic that is 







Fig- 9: Clockwise from top left: a collection of C 
samsara” (iOL Tib J 335), a selection of prayers 
(iOLTib) 728). Reproduced by kind permission 



n texts (iOLTib J 709), a text on the “way of 
id mantras (iOLTib) 530), and a Confucian text 
© The British Library. 


45 For example, the scroll containing a version of the popular tantric text Questions and Answers 
of Vajrasattva (IOL Tib J 470) is written in this sutra style, yet the scribe’s signature, and the 
headless writing style of the interlinear annotations show that it post-dates the Tibetan imperial 
period. On this see, van Schaik 2009. 









Tibetan Palaeography 


321 


perhaps the defining element of the post-imperial headed styles. This is the wave 
shape that we saw appearing more or less accidentally in the sutra style. In these 
later manuscripts this shape becomes embedded in the letter forms themselves, 
as a calligraphic element of writing. Though the wave shape is sometimes not 
very pronounced, it is consistently seen in the descenders of letters like na and 
ga and in the shad. In some hands this effect is accentuated by lengthening the 
descenders. As in the post-imperial epistolatory writing, we see evidence of the 
use of a wider variety of pens, including broad-nibbed pens that allow a calli¬ 
graphic variation of the weight of strokes, and split-nibbed pens.'**’ 


(b) Headless styles 

It is in the headless styles used to write Buddhist texts that we see the real devel¬ 
opment of Tibetan calligraphy after the fall of the Tibetan empire. As with post- 




V CNc--, - ■ ’ 

1 4>'ny<xy(U'om(] 












Fig. 10: Clockwise from top left: a commentary on the Upayapasatantra (lOLTib J 321), a 
sadhana of Vajrasattva (lOLTib J 552), a Mahayoga sddhana (lOLTib J A37) and a Vinayavastu 
(lOLTib) 1). Reproduced by kind permission of © The British Library. 


46 In some later manuscripts (for example lOL Tib 1454) we see the mark of a split-nibbed pen, 
that is, a flat nib which has been cut so as to hold ink better, like the nibs of most fountain pens. 
The split nib becomes apparent when insuffient ink is used, and the single pen stroke divides 
into two narrow parallel strokes. Thus far I have not identified manuscript evidence for split- 
nibbed pens in the imperial period. 



322 


Sam van Schaik 


imperial epistolatory writing, there is a distinct movement away from the prin¬ 
ciples of ease seen in the imperial period headless styles. The more calligraphic 
nature of the post-imperial headless style is evident in the sharp angles of letters 
like ga, ra and la, which produce a more attractive letter form, but require the 
scribe to cease the motion of his or her pen in order to form the angle. We also find 
that some letters, such as ka, now require an increased number of strokes. As in 
the headed Buddhist styles, the ‘wave’ element is embedded in many letter forms, 
and some scribes use shading quite consistently. 

Despite the variation in these hands, there is a clear script model underly¬ 
ing most of the letter forms. Recently, the discovery of manuscripts from Central 
Tibet dating to the same period as these Dunhuang manuscripts has yielded 
examples of a similar style of writing. This analogous style, seen in two of the 
Bonpo manuscripts found in the Gathang stupa and thought to date to the 10* 
century, strongly suggests that this headless style was not restricted to the Dun¬ 
huang or even the northeastern Tibetan area, but was taught and used widely in 
the Tibetan cultural area by the 10* century.'*^ Even before this discovery Samten 
Karmay had compared other Dunhuang manuscripts in this style to the so-called 
Druma {’bru ma) style seen in modern Bonpo ritual manuscripts from Amdo and 
Kham."® 

Some of the variants, shown above, are: 

- A very good example of the 10*-century Buddhist headless style is the manu¬ 
script of the Updyapdsd commentary written by the scribe Kam cu pa Bu’o 
ko (lOL Tib J 321), apparently a Chinese from Ganzhou (see image above). A 
number of other manuscripts, mainly containing tantric texts, are found in 
the same style of writing. 

- The Vajrasattva sadhana lOL Tib J 552 is written in a less formal version of 
the above used for texts of lower status than scripture and commentary (for 
example, sddhanas and ritual manuals). Letter forms are very similar, but 
less care is taken to ensure the correct proportions and spacing. 

- Another style seen in sddhanas has notably long descenders, and often atten¬ 
uated upper parts in some letters, such as the na. lOL Tib J 437, and several 
other manuscripts with this writing style, are associated with Khotanese 
scribes. A similar preference for long descenders is also seen in some later 
Kharakhoto manuscripts (eg. lOL Tib M 52). 


47 See Pa tshab pa 2007. We must of course consider the possibility that these manuscripts came 
from northeastern Tibet. 

48 Karmay 1988, 42, 59. The manuscripts in question are lOL Tib J 594 and 647. 



Tibetan Palaeography 


323 


A more compact version of the style seen in some vinaya manuscripts, such 
as lOL Tib J1, and in interlinear annotations. A similar style is seen in the 
interlinear annotation in some of the Tabo manuscripts.''® 


3.2.3 Further development 

It is illuminating to compare the Dunhuang Buddhist manuscripts of the 10* 
century to the Buddhist manuscripts from the Tangut city of Kharakhoto, proba¬ 
bly dating to the 12* or 13* centuries. Manuscripts like lOL Tib M 50 are testament 
to the enduring popularity of the elegant ‘headless’ style seen in lOL Tib J 321 and 
similar Dunhuang manuscripts. The later manuscripts are more accomplished in 
the subtlety and consistency of shading, and show how the headless script con¬ 
tinued to develop over the following centuries.®” 




110^ J I | 




Fig. 11: Buddhist manuscript from Kharakhoto, 12th-13th century: lOLTib M 50. Reproduced by 
kind permission of © The British Library. 


49 For example, RN421. 

50 A recent fibre analysis of some of the manuscripts from Kharakhoto by Agnieszka Helman- 
Wazny has shown them to be composed of fibres from the Thymelaeaceae family. This paper type 
is rare in the Tibetan manuscripts produced in Dunhuang, a notable exception being a letter sent 
from Central Tibet to Dunhuang in the imperial period (lOL Tib J1459). Therefore it is quite likely 
some of the manuscripts found in Kharakhoto were brought from Central Tibet, and the writing 
style therein may be taken as representative of Central Tibetan developments. 





Sam van Schaik 


324 - 


t'>*l'V5 >^'n »ai 


^d \Jf ♦ ooub'-y.' 


Fig. 12: Dasabhumika sutra: lOLTib J 86. Reproduced by kind permission of © The British 
Libra ry. 


Some manuscripts allow us to trace a line of development that leads towards one 
of the major calligraphic styles of central Tibet, the so-called “book form” {dpe 
tshugs). The book form is distinguished by a heavy shading on the vertical strokes, 
contrasting with a light shading on the horizontal strokes. A very few manuscripts 
from Dunhuang show the emergence of this style (eg. lOL Tib J 86 and 358). We 
see a more accomplished form in the Kharakhoto manuscripts like lOL Tib M 54 
and 55. These may in turn be connected with later “book form” manuscripts from 
Central Tibet, such as the one below. 


rvfc:^y 


Fig.l3: Historical text in bookform script, pre-20'*' century: Or.6751. Reproduced by kind per¬ 
mission of ©The British Library. 




Tibetan Palaeography 


325 


4 Key letter analysis 

The traditional method of palaeography is to analyse and compare the forms of 
key letters, and we will follow that method here, using the letter ka to show the 
variety of styles and the specific features of the dbu med style. I vdll begin with 
the pillar inscriptions because the development of the letter forms is best under¬ 
stood when these are taken as the original model. 

In the pillar inscriptions, the letter ka is composed of four lines: (i) a horizon¬ 
tal ‘head’ {mgo), and then from left to right, three vertical lines descending from 
the head, (ii) a stroke angled or turning to the left known in later Tibetan calligra¬ 
phy as the ‘tooth’ {mche ha), (iii) a straight line known as the ‘central arm’ {dbus 
lag) and a slightly longer straight line forming the right side of the letter, known 
as the ‘leg’ {rkang ba). 


4.1 Epigraphic 



In the earliest example of the letter ka, from the Zhol pillar, the three vertical lines 
are almost the same length. The ‘leg’ is only very slightly longer than the other 
two strokes, and is exactly the same length as the ‘head’. This gives the letter 
a very square appearance, an appearance that is characteristic of all the letter 
forms on this pillar. By the time of the Lhasa Treaty Pillar, some half a century 
later, the leg of ka is much longer than the other vertical strokes. This may be an 
effect of non-epigraphic vnriting on an epigraphic inscription, both the length and 
the angle of the ‘leg’ being features of a stroke written with pen and ink.^^ 


4.2 Square 


Here the ‘tooth’ and the ‘central arm’ now meet when they reach the head. This 
feature, which is found in almost all manuscript styles of the headed script, can 
probably be accounted for by the graphetic principle that a smaller number of 


51 Pictured here: Zhol pillar (c.767) and Lhasa Treaty Pillar (821/2). 



326 


Sam van Schaik 


fixed points in a letter allows for easier pen control. In this case we now have a 
single point where these two strokes connect with the head, meaning that the 
scribe does not need to judge the distance between the starting-point of the two 
strokes.^^ 


4.3 Sutra style 




Here we can see that the ‘leg’ has become longer, and both the ‘tooth’ and ‘central 
arm’ now point to 7 o’clock (one of the three easiest directions for writing accord¬ 
ing to van Sommers’ graphetic principles). Small ticks appear at the end of some 
strokes as the hand moves on to the next stroke before the pen lifts away. More 
fundamentally, it seems that the ductus of the letter may have been altered here 
so that the ‘central arm’ and the ‘leg’ are completed in a single stroke, with two 
more strokes for the ‘head’ and ‘tooth’, reducing the number of strokes from four 
to three. 


4.4 Official style - headed 

As in the above style, the heads of the letters are maintained, but the ductus has 
been changed to facilitate writing quickly.^'* 


4.5 Official style - headless 


■n 

This form of the letter shows further changes in the ductus, reducing the number 
of strokes to two. It is clear that, as above, the ‘central arm’ and the ‘leg’ are com¬ 
pleted in a single stroke, with the ‘tooth’ completed along with a now vestigal 
‘head’. Since there is no true ‘head’ - no separate vertical stroke - we can identify 


52 Pictured here: Old Tibetan Annals (lOL Tib J 750), early to mid 9* c. 

53 Pictured here: Aparamiturndma sutra (lOL Tib J 310.1210), early to mid 9'*' c. 

54 Pictured here: official despatch from the Bde hlon (Pelliot tibetain 1089), early to mid 9® c. 



Tibetan Palaeography 


327 


this as an dbu med style. Other accidental features of fast writing are also observ¬ 
able, such as the tick on the end of the ‘leg’ seen in this example. 


4.6 Monastic style 

Here there is even less attempt to retain the original proportions of the letter, 
which is reduced to the bare minimum of strokes needed for recognition. The two 
strokes that now form the ductus of ka can be clearly distinguished here.^® 


4.7 Post-imperial epistolatory style 


Here we see the same two-stroke ka, but a return to a more carefully-proportioned 
form, with some shading visible in the stroke of the ‘tooth’. Characteristic of the 
post-imperial ka, the two short strokes (the ‘tooth’ and ‘central arm’) both incline 
back to the right. 


4.8 Post-imperial Buddhist manuscripts 



In this example, the calligraphic features of the 10*-century headless style are 
clearly visible, with shading on all strokes, and the formal use of ticks on the end 
of all strokes. Here the ductus has changed so that we now have a three-stroke ka 
again.^® 

Among these styles, we can see at least four different kinds of ductus in a 
process by which the letter becomes increasingly cursive. Chronologically, this 


55 Pictured here: official despatch from the Bde hlon (lOL Tib J1126), mid P'** c. 

56 Pictured here: Yogacara commentary (lOL Tib J 301), mid 9® c.? [note this is the conjunct kya], 

57 Pictured here: Letter of passage, c.970 (lOL Tib J 754a). 

58 Pictured here: Commentary on the Updyapdsa sutra, 10'** c. (lOL Tib J 321). 



328 


Sam van Schaik 


seems to correspond to a gradual simplification of the ductus with a reduction of 
the number of strokes from four to two, until the appearance of the calligraphic 
styles of the 10* century, when the number of strokes increases to three. 



Fig. 14: Variant ductus for the letter ka seen in the Dunhuang manuscripts, in the square, sutra, 
official (headless) and post-imperial Buddhist styles. 


5 Problems and solutions 

5.1 Bad writers and poor handwriting 

It is of course a subjective judgement, but among the manuscripts from Dunhuang 
and other Central Asian sites there is a significant proportion that appear to be 
written by a person with only a limited grasp of the art of writing. I believe that 
these manuscripts are probably the result of people learning the Tibetan alpha¬ 
bet without full or proper instruction, and that a large number of them is found 
in these Central Asian collections specifically because these were primarily non- 
Tibetan areas in which many people would have learned the Tibetan alphabet as 
a second (or third) written language. 



Fig. 15: Tibetan wooden slip from the Mazar Tagh fort: iOLTib N 1465. Reproduced by kind 
permission of ©The British Library. 













Tibetan Palaeography 


329 


Once again, we can quite easily split these poorly-written manuscripts between 
those written during the Tibetan empire, and those written after the empire. The 
first group are from the imperial forts of Miran andMazar Tagh. These manuscripts 
come from the military culture at these forts, of which Takeuchi has written: 

Tibetan armies, including previously subjugated Sumpa and Zhangzhung elements, 
were sent and stationed there, and local peoples such as Chinese, Khotanese, ’A-zha (i.e. 
Tuyuhun), and Mthong-khyab, were recruited in situ and incorporated in the Tibetan mili¬ 
tary system.^’ 

As we might expect from an army composed of such a diversity of soldiers, the 
written documents from these sites are in a variety of styles, and range from 
accomplished versions of the official styles seen in the Dunhuang manuscripts 
and described above, to versions of the square style (including older orthography 
and punctuation like the double tsheg) to stilted and crabbed handwritings that 
seem to be based on these styles but are clearly not from the hand of an accom¬ 
plished writer. 

The poorly written manuscripts from Dunhuang often look very similar to 
those from the military bases, but they are quite different in being Buddhist texts 
and being dated - where dating is possible - to the latter part of the 10*^ century. 
The texts are overwhelmingly tantric, including prayers, sddhanas, and funerary 
rituals. Only one of these manuscripts is signed by a scribe, a certain ’Phyag Dar 
ste. The first part of this name is difficult to identify but the second part of it is 
probably Chinese. 

Some time ago I argued that this poorly executed handwriting may have 
been the result of people writing quickly, perhaps taking notes in a teaching 
situation.*’” While this may well be true of some of these manuscripts, we have 
other manuscripts that appear to have been written swiftly but show a much more 
accomplished hand (like the ‘monastic style’ manuscripts discussed above). And 
since some of the poorly-written manuscripts are copies of well-known texts, it is 
unlikely that they were written at unusual haste. 


59 Takeuchi 2004, 50. 

60 See van Schaik 2007. 



330 


Sam van Schaik 



Fig. 16: Tibetan tantric text on the verso of Chinese almanac for the year 956: Or.8210/S.95. 
Reproduced by kind permission of © The British Library. 


It may be better to see these poorly executed manuscripts as originating from 
writers who have acquired the Tibetan alphabet in an incomplete manner, proba¬ 
bly as autodidacts learning through copying the letters on other manuscripts. The 
faults in these writing styles are those of writers who have copied the form of the 
letter without having been taught the correct way of constructing it; that is, the 
order and direction of the strokes. Tibetan, like most writing systems, has strict 
rules about the order and direction of the strokes that make up its letters. This 
means that even when writing at speed, a scribe’s handwriting will be legible to a 
practised reader. On the other hand, when a scribe adopts a nonstandard stroke 
order and direction, his or her letters may take on quite idiosyncratic forms, and 
will rarely achieve the formal elegance of a taught hand. 

In recent years there have been several cross-cultural studies of the acqui¬ 
sition of a second handwriting. One such study has shown the results of such 
self-taught writing in Japanese schoolchildren who were asked to write English 
letters without formal guidance. The results are inelegant, idiosyncratic, and at 
times illegible.®^ Several other studies show that when schoolchildren learn a 
second alphabet, the execution and general shape of the letters are affected by 
the formal characteristics of their first alphabet. For example, Chinese children 
tend to sequence their letters with the traditional Chinese method of drawing 
horizontal strokes before vertical strokes.®^ In our manuscripts the same horizon¬ 
tal sequencing can sometimes be seen in certain letters - the letter ja being a 
particularly clear example. 


61 Sassoon 1995,16, 21. 

62 Sassoon 1995, 45-54. 



Tibetan Palaeography 


331 


•I I ^ ^ ^ 

Fig. 17: The standard stroke order of the headed form of the letter ]a, and the stroke order for 
the same letter in Or.8210/S.95. 


We may tentatively conclude that many of these manuscripts in poor handvyriting 
vyhere vyritten by local Chinese vyho had only an imperfect grasp of the Tibetan 
alphabet, having learned it vyithout a proper instructor, and therefore vyithout 
acquiring the correct stroke order. Why vyere these people - vyho presumably could 
more easily vyrite in Chinese, interested in these Tibetan texts? The ansvyer may 
be in the specific nature of the texts in this kind of poor handvyriting, vyhich, as I 
mentioned earlier, are mainly sddhanas, funerary texts and prayers for recitation. 
The profusion of Tibetan tantric manuscripts from the lO**' century in the Dun- 
huang collections suggests (i) that tantric meditation and ritual vyas very popular 
at this time, and (ii) the vast majority of such texts vyere only available in the 
Tibetan language. This vyould have been reason enough for local Chinese - and 
perhaps other non-Tibetans - to make the effort to acquire some facility in vyritten 
Tibetan, even vyithout access to proper instruction in the script.®^ 


5.2 Identifying the handwriting styles of individual scribes 

There is another knotty problem that facing the palaeographer attempting to 
develop a typology based on a limited group of manuscripts. This is the ques¬ 
tion of vyhether a particular style of vyriting represents a taught style, or just the 
handvyriting of one prolific scribe. In the language of handvyriting analysis, this 
is the difference betvyeen allographic and idiographic variation. Allographic vari¬ 
ants are alternative vyays of vyriting the same letter (or “grapheme” in the techni¬ 
cal vocabulary); an example in our script is the printed /a/ and the italic /a/. 
Idiographic variants are specific to individual vyriters and generally are not con¬ 
sciously affected by that vyriter - rather they are the features of a vyriter’s hand 
that he or she is not consciously in control of, but that give it a particular form. 


63 Of course, as mentioned above, many Chinese scribes wrote Tibetan in very practised and 
sometimes elegant styles. These scribes would have been taught to write Tibetan by others al¬ 
ready fluent in the style. It is also worth noting that one of the central Tibetan manuscripts from 
Gathang (the Sha ni shul ston) is written in a similarly awkward hand. Here we have less reason to 
think that the scribe was non-Tibetan, but we may still speculate that this hand was self-taught, 
rather than acquired through formal training. 




332 


Sam van Schaik 


Now, in cultures that are far removed from us in time and geography, it can be 
difficult to distinguish these two. In a recent article I and my co-authors explored 
how we might apply the forensic method for handwriting identification to the 
Tibetan Dunhuang manuscripts. This method involves isolating examples of each 
individual grapheme from document A, and comparing them with equivalent 
forms from document B. In this way an analytic chart is created, and used as a 
tool to identify significant - idiographic - similarities between individual letters 
in each document. Yet the forensic handwriting expert faces much the same 
problem as the palaeographer - how to communicate to others a conclusion that 
is based on his or her own extensive experience of examining writing styles? As 
the forensic analyst Tom Davis has written: 

The ability to create such a chart is very much based on experience. The examiner must 
know what is likely to constitute significant variation for the purposes of determining 
authorship.^'' 

So, while the forensic method is a helpful tool for palaeography, it does not replace 
the techniques of the palaeographer, nor does it offer the prospect of removing the 
element of individual expertise and judgement from palaeography. 

The question of whether a group of manuscripts in a similar style can be iden¬ 
tified as a taught style representing the handwritings of several scribes on the one 
hand, or as the handwriting of a single scribe on the other, is particularly prob¬ 
lematic when we are dealing with the post-imperial Tibetan manuscripts from 
Dunhuang. The manuscripts of the imperial period clearly fall into certain groups 
in which, as we have seen, specific handwriting styles are appropriate to specific 
kinds of document. Many more of these documents are signed by scribes, so we 
can also confirm that numerous scribes are writing in the same style. In addition, 
we have inscriptions and manuscripts from Central Tibet which show that these 
general styles were not local to Dunhuang. 

By contrast, owing to the profusion of calligraphic styles in the post-impe¬ 
rial period, the situation is much less clear. The best approach to arguing that a 
group of manuscripts represent the handwriting of a single scribe is to accumu¬ 
late physical and thematic evidence, that is (i) a large number of “benchmarks” - 
idiographic characteristics linking all of the manuscripts, (ii) other similarities in 
the group including codicological ones - type of book, mise en page, and so on, 
(iii) similarities in the content of the manuscript itself - not broad similarities 


64 Dalton, Davis and van Schaik 2007, 4. 



Tibetan Palaeography 


333 




a/ ^ <<r;^«v 


I L—i- 


Fig. 18: Two manuscripts probably written by the same scribe: lOLTib J A24 and 425. Repro¬ 
duced by kind permission of © The British Library. 


like “Buddhist text” but specific ones like “rituals of water offering.”®^ Such con¬ 
junctions of palaeographical, codicological and thematic content are in fact quite 
common in the post-imperial Tibetan Buddhist manuscripts, and it is likely that 
many of them do derive from the work of a relatively few scribes. 

It is even more speculative, perhaps to identify a taught style among these 
manuscripts. As the traditional account states, it sometimes seems that every 
scribe has adopted a style of his or her own. There is some help to be found in 
the manuscripts from Kharakhoto, Tabo and other collections that date from the 
centuries immediately following the 10'*^ century. In some cases, like those men¬ 
tioned in section III above, we can see that the Dunhuang scribes are writing 
in a taught style that continued to evolve over the following centuries. However, 
the identification of taught styles seems better suited to the imperial period, and 
perhaps the identification of scribal handwritings may be the more promising 
technique for the Dunhuang manuscripts from the post-imperial period. 


6 Conclusions 

What can a palaeography of the early Tibetan inscriptions and manuscripts 
offer us? One thing it can do is illuminate for us the early development of vnritten 
Tibetan. Though this may perhaps be of interest mainly to other palaeographers, it 
does touch on some topics that have been debated by both traditional and modern 
scholars of Tibet, including the origin of the Tibetan script, and the development 


65 This technique of accumulating different levels of evidence is used in the identification of a 
single scribe in Dalton, Davis and van Schaik 2007. 



334 


Sam van Schaik 


of the headless style.*’*’ Palaeography may also hold out the prospect of dating 
manuscripts by handwriting, when no other evidence is available. In this brief 
study I have tried to sketch out how we might begin to date the early Tibetan 
manuscripts according to palaeography, based on the following: 

(i) A preliminary typology of written styles in the imperial period manuscripts. 

(ii) A recognition that a paradigm shift in written Tibetan followed the fall of the 
Tibetan empire in the mid-P* century. 

(iii) A familiarity with the calligraphic elaborations in written Tibetan that devel¬ 
oped in the post-imperial period. 

Finally, it is to be hoped that a full description (more than is possible in this pre¬ 
liminary study) of the different writing styles that appear in these manuscripts 
will encourage students of Tibetan history and Tibetan Buddhism to make more 
use of these primary sources. With digital images and text editions increasingly 
available through the work of the International Dunhuang Project and the Old 
Tibetan Documents Online website, access to the manuscripts is easier than ever. 
Yet many students and scholars still assume that these earliest surviving Tibetan 
manuscripts, are too difficult to read, or dismiss them as merely of local interest. 
Just as Western palaeography has opened up the world of European manuscripts 
for many researchers, a palaeography of Tibetan may help make the Dunhuang 
manuscripts more approachable. 


References 

Akademie der Wissenschaften, Gottingen (ed.) (1951), FestschriftzurFeier des200jahrigen 
Bestehens der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Gottingen (II Philologische-historische 
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Imre Galambos 

Punctuation Marks in Medieval Chinese 
Manuscripts' 

Generally speaking, written Chinese before the 20*^ century used no punctuation; 
readers parsed the text based on context, relying on an array of grammatical and 
modal particles. Another important aid was the often parallel structure of sen¬ 
tences, its organic symmetry and rhythm. Western style punctuation was intro¬ 
duced in 1920 and has been successfully employed ever since.^ Although for most 
of its history Chinese writing was fully functional without punctuation, a number 
of marks had also been used before the modern era. Their presence, however, was 
sporadic and often limited to educational and commentarial literature.^ 

Naturally, transmitted texts are of little use for the study of punctuation marks 
in earlier periods because such notation was generally not part of the text proper 
and, consequently, remained excluded from transmission. Scribal notations 
were closely tied to manuscript culture and therefore the best method to study 
them today is to examine the manuscripts, whenever available. In this respect, 
the Dunhuang manuscripts represent an ideal body of texts for the period of the 
Sth-iQth centuries.'' They are especially relevant for the early medieval and medi¬ 
eval periods because they comprise, along with material excavated at other sites 
in Western China (most notably Turfan and Khara-Khoto), the absolute majority 
of extant manuscripts. Consequently, even though this corpus comes from the 


1 I am grateful to Matthias Richter of the University of Colorado, Boulder for his suggestions and 
remarks on an earlier draft of this paper. 

2 The document titled “Proposal for the promulgation of new-style punctuation marks” was sub¬ 
mitted by the eminent Chinese writer Hu Shi iSB (1891-1962), Zhou Zuoren (1885-1967) 

and several other scholars in November 1919, in response to which in February 1920 the Ministry 
of Education issued the “Directive on the implementation of new style punctuation marks” (Li 
Xingjian et al. 2001, 268). Hu Shi’s own book Zhongguo zhexueshi dagang (1919) was the first 
book written in vernacular Chinese and published with modern punctuation. 

3 For a general treatment of punctuation in Chinese writing in the West, see Harbsmeier (1998), 
Fiihrer and Behr (2005), and Drege (1991). The first person to discuss punctuation marks in Chi¬ 
nese texts was the Russian missionary-sinologist Nikita Bichurin (1777-1853), more commonly 
known in the West by his monastic name Father lakinf (Hyacinth), in his book on Chinese gram¬ 
mar (Bichurin 1838, 20-31), he described the marks used in contemporary printed texts. 

4 Based on the colophons of dated texts, it is generally believed that the manuscripts had been 
written between ca. 400-1000. The overall majority of the texts are handwritten, with a small 
number of printed ones, and even fewer rubbings from epigraphic material. As a collection, they 
represent the largest body of Chinese manuscripts ever found, and thus their significance for the 
study of scribal habits and the history of Chinese writing in general is invaluable. 



342 


Imre Galambos 


periphery of the Chinese sphere of influence and at times may exhibit local pecu¬ 
liarities, it is by far the largest and thus provides a representative image of scribal 
habits. 

What we consider punctuation is, of course, a matter of definition. While the 
etymology of the English word refers to points (Lat. punctus) used for dividing 
text, there are a number of other types of marks (e.g., question and exclamation 
points, quotation marks, brackets) that are also included in this category. In this 
paper I am using the term punctuation in a broad sense for all symbols used in 
manuscripts, other than the text (i.e. characters) itself. To be sure, it would be a 
difficult task to give an exhaustive count of all such marks, as new manuscript 
finds often provide evidence of hitherto unknown types.^ But for the most part 
newly discovered marks tend to be individual symbols the use of which had been 
local and exceptional. The tens of thousands of manuscripts from Dunhuang 
supply enough material to document the major types of marks in common use 
in medieval times. Although in comparison with modern punctuation they often 
seem unsystematic, they nevertheless exhibit a surprisingly high degree of con¬ 
sistency in terms of their functionality and appearance over the course of the six 
centuries represented by the Dunhuang material. This testifies to an unbroken 
scribal tradition that outlived several dynasties. From the point of view of their 
functionality, we can group the most common marks into the following catego¬ 
ries: 1) correction marks; 2) repetition marks; 3) phonetic marks; 4) abbreviation 
marks; 5) segmentation marks; 6) reverence marks; and 7) other marks. 


1 Correction marks 

Although correction and repetition marks (see section 2 below) are not the types 
that come first to mind when discussing punctuation, they appear at the head of 
the list here because of their overall prominence in manuscript material. Correc¬ 
tion marks are a set of signs used for rectifying mistakes in the manuscripts, by 
either the writer, or a subsequent editor or proof-reader. Traces of proof-reading 


5 While the original contents of the Dunhuang library cave represent a finite and closed corpus, 
surprisingly to this day we still do not have a complete list of all manuscripts. Following the dis¬ 
persion of the collection, many of the items were lost or simply disappeared from the eyes of the 
world. With the recent boom in Dunhuang studies, new manuscripts are being “rediscovered” 
each year, and images of these are becoming accessible in digital or printed reproductions, in 
addition to this, other sites in Western China, most notably Turfan, Khara-Khoto, Loulan and 
Khotan, are continuously yielding new material. Especially the Turfan area has been rich in 
manuscript finds and the size of the Turfan corpus is rapidly growing. 



Punctuation Marks in Medieval Chinese Manuscripts 


343 


abound in the Dunhuang corpus; there are quite a few manuscripts with colo¬ 
phons that record the names and titles of people who checked the completed 
work for errors. Scrolls of Buddhist scriptures commissioned by the Tang court 
were executed with skilled and even calligraphy, with at least three persons 
checking the result. 

It is worth noting that mistakes, and their corrections, are very common in 
extant manuscripts, and virtually no longer scroll is devoid of them. Even court- 
commissioned sutms include corrections, revealing that such errors, as long as 
they were corrected, were tolerated in the final product.® A Song dynasty account 
of how corrections were done as part of the proof-reading or editing (Jiaochou 13c 
tl) process is described by Chen Kui (1128-1203): 

, sij»o , ip 

mm . 

When errors occur in characters, paint them over with orpiment (cihuang) and then write 
new text atop of that. If there are interpolated characters, mark them with a circle of orpi¬ 
ment; if there are missing ones, insert them by the side of the text. Or if there is not enough 
space for comments by the side of the text, then use a vermillion circle and write your note 
on the empty margins at the top or bottom of that line. When two characters are reversed, 
write the character Z, between them.^ 

Chen Kui’s description is fully compatible with the ways of marking corrections 
in the Dunhuang manuscripts. One of the most common mistakes was to reverse 
the sequence of two adjacent characters, which was corrected by placing a small 
checkmark in the form of v or on the right side of the line between the two 
characters (figure 1). The second of these is no doubt identical to the character S 
mentioned by Chen Kui, and also seen in Figure 1/B. 

When a character appears in the text by mistake, it is corrected with a dele¬ 
tion mark comprising one or more dots placed by the right side of the character. 
The most common form had three dots but in some cases there could be one or 
four dots. For example, in Figure 2/C the character # is marked with four dots, 
showing that it needs to be eliminated. Figure 2/A shows a case where the copier 
accidentally repeated two characters but immediately noticed his error and 
emended it by placing a small dot next to each of the two erroneous characters. 


6 In such high quality elite manuscripts, however, we can observe a tendency to make the cor¬ 
rections as visually inconspicuous as possible, with subtle marks or insertions that would have 
been virtually unnoticeable to anyone without carefully reading through the entire manuscript. 

7 Chen Kui, Nan Songguan ge lu iiiSIIH® (1998), “Jiaochou shi” tSfltS;. For a good review of 
the editing process and methods in transmitted literature, see Zhang 2001. An alternative trans¬ 
lation is also found in Cherniack 1994, 94. 



344 


Imre Galambos 


The dots are occasionally written in another colour, as in Figure 2/D which shows 
that the copier made the mistake of writing the word pusa (Bodhisattva) 
instead of puti SH {bodhi), and corrected this by marking the character ® with 
a red dot. 


A: Or.8210/S.2067 

+4 


B: Or.8210/S.15A7 


C:Or.8210/S.236 

A 


Fig- 1: Examples of notation for reversed characters.® 


A: 0r.8210/ 
S.321 

*■ 


B: Or.8210/ 

C:0r.8210/ 

D:Or.8210/ 

E: Or.8210/ 

S.797/V 

S.2A9(A)R.2 

S.2067 

S.1920 



4k 


ir-.f 


-Tit 





’ft 





3- • ^ 




T; 













Fig- 2: Deletion marks on the right side of mistaken characters. In examples A-D the mark 
consisting of a different number of dots, whereas in E it is marked with a symbol resembling the 
character h. 


Another common deletion mark was a symbol in the shape of the character h 
placed, just like the dots, on the right side of the redundant character.® In the 
manuscript in Figure 2/E, the copier accidentally used the character f# instead of 
the homophonous f±, but having caught his mistake, marked the flawed charac¬ 
ter with the h mark and continued the text with the correct one. 

The custom of using a dot as a deletion mark is also referred to in Guo Pu’s 
(276-324) commentary to the Erya ® Jt. The main text says, ‘“To eliminate’ 


8 All manuscript images appearing in this paper come from the Stein collection at the British 
Library or the Pelliot collection at the Bibliotheque nationale de France. The pressmark for the 
Stein manuscripts begin with “Or.8210/S.,” and for the Pelliot ones with “P.” (abbreviated from 
“Pelliot chinois”). All of these manuscripts are, or shortly will be, accessible online through the 
website of the International Dunhuang Project (IDP) at <http://idp.bl.uk>. 

9 For a study devoted to the h deletion mark, see Zhang Xiaoyan 2003. 



Punctuation Marks in Medieval Chinese Manuscripts 


345 


means ‘to mark with a dot’” Mli ii li, which is an ambiguous statement explained 
by the commentator as ‘‘to eliminate a character with the brush” We 

know from a later source^^ that another edition of the text had the character )i^ 
(‘‘to stain; to soak”) in place of Ifi (“to mark with a dot”)/^ which seems to be 
referring to the technique of painting over the wrong character with orpiment.^^ 
This reading would also be compatible with the original version of the phrase 
(i.e. using the character li), although without the alternate version one could 
certainly take the verb dian Ifi to refer to the correction marks beside the mistaken 
character/'* 


2 Repetition marks 

Medieval manuscripts habitually employ repetition marks whenever two or more 
identical characters follow each other. This is an optional notation and in many 
cases the characters are written out in full.^ At other times, however, the second 
instance of the character is omitted and a mark is used in its place. Principally 
speaking, there are two kinds of repetitions: single-character and multi-character 
ones. In the first type only one character is repeated, whereas in the latter two or 
more. While this may seem a trivial distinction, in actual usage the notation for 
these was somewhat different. The single character repetition was simply marked 
by a small 1 mark put in place of the second character. This mark was sometimes 
written as t or 5., but the form t was still by far the most common in Dunhuang. 
The mark was placed within the main text, in place of the omitted second charac¬ 
ter occupying, in contrast with most other marks, a full character space. 


10 My translation of the Erya definition is, of course, based on Guo Pu’s commentary to it, even 
though originally it very well may have been written with a different context in mind. 

11 This later source is the Song commentator Xing Bing JfPS (932-1010) who added further an¬ 
notations to Guo Pu’s commentary (see Eryazhushu 1131^®:). 

12 The characters and ii are perfectly viable variants, as they not only had similar pronuncia¬ 
tion in the time of Guo Pu (as indicated by the shared phonetic component) but also stood for 
words that were probably cognates. 

13 This technique is equivalent to our modern-day method of using “wite-out” or “liquid paper.” 

14 It is worth noting that in the Dunhuang manuscripts the technique of painting over a charac¬ 
ter was significantly less common than marking the mistake with small dots on the side. Other 
methods for deletion were to smudge the error out with ink, to scrape it off the surface of the 
paper, or to glue a piece of paper over it. 

15 In fact, in most cases where repetition occurs, the characters are written out in their full form 
and the repetition mark is used less commonly. 



346 


Imre Galambos 


Figure 3/A shows two instances of single-character repetitions; first the char¬ 
acter ^ and then in the next line the character W,; in each case the second char¬ 
acter is omitted and substituted by a » mark. In multi-character repetition, the 
repetition mark is placed either underneath the character or at its right bottom 
corner. An example to the former usage is Figure 3/B where the characters d'WIS 
(“indescribable; unspeakable”) are repeated in the phrase “indescribable and 
indescribable myriads of sentient beings” d'. What makes this case 
different from the single repetition in Figure 3/A is that the three characters are to 
be read together and only then repeated as a string. Based on the notation alone, 
it would theoretically be possible to repeat them one by one as but 

this would obviously produce a meaningless string of characters. The reader must 
rely on the context for disambiguation. In the case of multi-character repetition, 
the marks could also be written on the side of the text as a single or double slanted 
stroke, as in Figure 3/C where the word niepan (“Nirvana”) is repeated. 


A: Or.8210/S.15A7 

B:0r.8210/S.2067 

C: Or.8210/S.116 



f’l'^ ^ 

■» 

t % 'i 

[.A > 


1 ;* 


"S- 

i ii 

- ^ : 

-St 

f 1 




* >> 

- 

i ^ ^ 



. •» * 



Fig. 3: Examples of single and double-character repetition marks. 


3 Phonetic marks 

Medieval manuscripts also include a number of phonetic marks wdth the purpose 
to clarify the correct pronunciation of a character. In a study on such notation 
used in Dunhuang manuscripts, Ishizuka Harumichi describes how the marks 
indicating the four tones of the Chinese language developed from the earlier poyin 
marks used for distinguishing a character’s default and derivative readings.^® 
The habit of marking derivative readings by a red dot is already mentioned in Lu 
Deming’s ^^.0^ (556-627) celebrated dictionary, the Jingdian shiwen 


16 Ishizuka 1993, 30-32. 



Punctuation Marks in Medieval Chinese Manuscripts 


347 


The character M (“not, do not”) is different from the character S (“mother”) used for 
one’s parent. In books circulating among the general population these are often confused 
and readers always mark the character mu 9 with a red dot to show that it should be pro¬ 
nounced as wu. This is wrong. 

The expression zhudian Ifi (“to mark something with a red dot”) appears in the 
above excerpt as a transitive verb, suggesting that at this time this was a technical 
term. Lu Deming complains that in manuscripts of inferior quality the characters 
^ and § could not be told apart and ordinary readers developed the habit of 
using a red dot to distinguish between the uses of what they thought to be the 
same character.^® Although the above comment was written with the aim of point¬ 
ing out a misunderstanding, it also provides evidence for existence of the practice 
of marking a character’s pronunciation as a means of distinguishing its original 
and derivative readings. 

Although the Jingdian shiwen dates to the late 6* century, concrete examples 
of such usage appear in the Dunhuang manuscripts only from the mid 7* century. 
Ishizuka distinguishes several categories of conventions based on the location of 
the red poyin marks with reference to the character itself.^® The most basic form 
is when the red dot is placed over the middle of the character, indicating that it 
is being used in a derivative sense. For example, in manuscript Or.8210/S.2577 
the character appears standing for the words “music” and “pleasure” in two 
adjacent lines: 

At that time, eighty-four thousand heavenly women shall come and welcome him, perform¬ 
ing different kinds of music. He shall instantly don a crown of seven treasures and find 
amusement and pleasure among the women of the palace. 

The first instance of the character, appearing in the word jiyue (“music”) is 
unmarked, whereas the other two occurrences in the words yule (“amuse¬ 
ment”) and kuaile (“pleasure”) are marked with a red dot. This shows that 


17 Lu Deming 1985, “Wu bujing” ST'®. 

18 Needless to say, in this place Lu Deming refers to Sui and Tang manuscripts and is not con¬ 
cerned with the complex relationship between these two characters in the pre-Qin period. 

19 Ishizuka 1993, 32-49. 

20 This example is also noted in Ishizuka 1993, 41. For a translation of the colophon of this 
manuscript describing the way of principles of adding punctuation marks, see Section 5.1 below. 



348 


Imre Galambos 


the default reading of the character was to stand for the word “music” and that 
other usage had to be marked in order to distinguish it. 

A variation of this technique in Dunhuang manuscripts is when the red mark 
is applied to the right of the character. In the above two cases it only serves to 
mark the whole character without specific phonetic information. In contrast with 
this, the red mark could also appear at one of the four corners of the character, 
just outside its square boundaries. In such cases not only the presence of the 
dot was meaningful but also its location, because it was indicative of the tone 
with which the particular character was supposed to be pronounced, and this in 
turn also determined the word it meant to represent in that context. Within the 
Dunhuang material, Ishizuka distinguishes four different systems, depending on 
in which corner the ping ¥ (“level”) tone, the first of the four, is placed; upper 
right, lower right, lower left, or upper left. Within each system the tones followed 
one another in a clockwise direction, that is, if the 1®* tone was in the upper right 
corner, then the 2"'^ was in the lower right, the in the lower left, and the in 
the upper left one. 

Ishizuka correctly attributes the development of these marks to advance¬ 
ments in philological studies, as scholars needed to distinguish and mark an 
increasing amount of linguistic information in texts.^^ However, while the motiva¬ 
tion behind the use of the poyin system was to study the classics “so as to under¬ 
stand difficult characters and sentences correctly,”^^ one cannot but wonder why 
some of these elucidations were necessary at all. After all, distinguishing the 
two pronunciations of the character M. (e vs. wu) in the Lunyu would have 
been fairly obvious for all literate people, since by the Tang dynasty the text had 
been used as one of the basic books of elementary education. This suggests that 
rather than simply facilitating the reading of the texts, such detailed commen- 
tarial notation must have functioned as a way of emphasizing and transmitting a 
certain tradition of interpretation. 


4 Abbreviation marks 

Abbreviation marks are used for indicating an omitted portion of a word or 
phrase which is unequivocal in a particular context. They typically occur in non- 
canonical Buddhist texts, including commentarial literature and the popular 
genre of so-called “transformation texts” {bianwen ®5;). There are two types of 


21 See Ishizuka 1981,107. 

22 Ibid. 



Punctuation Marks in Medieval Chinese Manuscripts 


349 


abbreviations: one used for binoms, the other for longer strings ranging from a 
phrase to complete sentences. The first type is only used for fairly common words 
where only the first character is written, while the second is replaced by one or 
two comma-like dots (Figure 4/A, 4/B). Common examples are the words gongde 
“merit” ); rulai “Tathagata” ); gongyang “to make offerings” 

); zhongsheng “sentient beings” ); fannao “affliction” ^ 

); qingjing “purity” ), etc.^^ Because the mark placed after the first 

character at times closely resembles the repetition mark, once again, the context 
is necessary for a correct reading. There are cases, however, when the mark is 
simply a downward elongation of the first character (e.g.. Figure 4/C). 


A: P.3808 B: P.3808 C: P.2133 


litt 




im 


D: P.2305 







Fig- 4: Abbreviation marks in manuscripts of popular Buddhist literature. 


Beside individual words, abbreviation can also be used for phrases and sentences 
which are deemed obvious enough so that the reader can decode them based on 
the context. Generally speaking, these are strings of text that occur repeatedly 
within the same manuscript. For example, manuscript P.2133 has several such 
formulaic sentences which are abbreviated after the initial use. Figure 4/D shows 
the phrase “yet has no contentment in his heart” appearing three 

times in the text. The first time it appears in full but after that it is abbreviated by 
writing the first two characters and then replacing the rest with a long vertical 
stroke. 


23 Pan Zhonggui 1981, 7-8. 




350 


Imre Galambos 


5 Segmentation marks 

This is the category of scribal notation which comes closest to our modern notion 
of punctuation. These marks are used for dividing the text and aiding its under¬ 
standing, without adding or deleting characters. They are not part of the Chinese 
script as such but have only been used for learning purposes or parsing difficult 
or ambivalent texts (e.g., the Classics). Accordingly, these marks appear in manu¬ 
scripts less frequently than correction and repetition marks, both of which were 
fairly common, forming an integral part of medieval manuscript culture. 

In our modern age we are accustomed to relying on a highly standardised 
system of punctuation marks and these specify the grammatical relationships 
within a text with considerable regularity. But consistency in this respect is cer¬ 
tainly a modern invention even in Western languages. In contrast with this, medi¬ 
eval Chinese scribes divided the text into smaller segments, indicating groups 
of characters that belonged together. Nothing in this practice distinguished the 
end of a sentence in the modern sense of the word; the text seemed to consist of 
a succession of shorter “chunks,” each of which was only a few characters long. 
Similarly, while the modern understanding of punctuation acknowledges its 
value for signifying the mood and tone of sentences (e.g., exclamation and ques¬ 
tion marks), in Chinese manuscripts this was almost never the case, and such 
nuances were thought to have been sufficiently indicated in the text itself, not the 
least with a series of modal particles. 

When studying the Dunhuang manuscripts, it is probably a good practice 
not to adhere too closely to our modern notion of punctuation, since the medi¬ 
eval understanding of grammatical constituents and syntactic relations was in 
many ways different from ours.^'' Instead, it seems more reasonable to begin our 
investigation with the contemporary functionality of the marks, and only then 
try to draw parallels with modern usage. Based on their use in context, we can 
distinguish the following types of marks: 


24 For example, in Li Zhengyu’s (1998, 98) classification of punctuation marks in Dunhuang 
manuscripts the first two categories are the period and the comma. He observes that the period 
was often written with the same mark as the comma but fails to acknowledge that at the time 
people might have made no distinction between the two. An improvement in this respect is the 
work of Guan Xihua (2002) who categorized the marks in the Dunhuang corpus primarily on the 
basis of their visual appearance and within each category described the function of a particular 
mark. From the point of view of methodology, the best approach is that of Pan Zhonggui (1981) 
whose classification is based on the functionality of marks within the manuscripts. 



Punctuation Marks in Medieval Chinese Manuscripts 


351 


5.1 Separation marks 

These are dots in the form of a modern serial comma () or a period (o ), used 
for separating smaller bits of texts, which normally do not exceed a few char¬ 
acters. There seems to be no distinction between the two marks, both of them 
could be used in the same context, and often there were in-between forms. 
In figure 5/A, for example, red comma-type marks are placed after every few 
characters, much where we would punctuate the text today with commas and 
periods. However, the same comma-like symbol is used consistently through¬ 
out the manuscript, showing the lack of distinction between a pause and a full 
stop. Another example in Figure 5/B is a copy of the Maoshi Zheng jian ^ 
where the text is divided by the same kind of red dots. Interestingly, the punc¬ 
tuation also extends to the commentaries placed in two-column small script 
between the main text.^^ 


A: P.AOlO 



B:0r.8210/S.10 

^7 


' ■* 


4 ■ li- 

jEt 

4 A 

% ' 

jx. 


fit* 

■A A 

% 

f .He. 



A a 

' 1 } 

A 


m> 



■h 

^4 

iU 



Fig. 5: Separation marks. (The marks on both manuscript images have been retraced in black 
because the originals red marks are too faint to be easily visible in a black-and-white print.) 


25 A fascinating aspect of this manuscript is that phonetic readings of selected characters from 
the main text appear on the verso, exactly where the annotated character is. The user has to 
hold the paper to the light in order to be able to see the connection between the two sides. See 
Ishizuka 1970, 5. 




352 


Imre Galambos 


Both of the above cases are examples of secondary punctuation when the marks 
were added not by the copier but someone else who used the text sometime later. 
We are fortunate to have among the Dunhuang manuscripts a description of the 
motivation behind such subsequent mark-up. In manuscript Or.8210/S.2577, a 7***- 
century scroll containing fascicle 8 of the Lotus sutm, the punctuator explains his 
reasons in the colophon the foiiowdng way: 


# , ; SiJtTi^tT(MMS)o , m 

m»sL glim#, , wiiK*o 

I punctuated this sutra for beginner students who read it but are unfamiliar with the seg¬ 
mentation of the text. I neither paid attention to larger sections, nor considered their begin¬ 
ning and end. For the most part segments consist of four characters and I started punc¬ 
tuating them when the segments did not comprise four characters. But for four-character 
segments I added no dots whatsoever. The alternate reading of the character S refers to 
when it is pronounced as the alternate reading of the character It refers to when it is 

pronounced as In this manner, I tentatively distinguished them. Let those who see 

this later not blame me for using red marks and say that the punctuation is flawed. 


The description explains that the punctuator added the marks for the sake of 
beginners who did not know how to parse the text. But even these novices would 
have been familiar with the general rule of four-character units in literary Chinese 
and thus only places where this was not the case had to be marked. Similarly, red 
poyin marks appear in the manuscript only for characters the reading of which in 
that particular context deviates from their common one. This shows that contrary 
to our modern custom of punctuating a text thoroughly, in medieval China punc¬ 
tuation was used, if used at all, primarily for solving ambiguities or difficulties. 
As a result, the system of punctuation we can discern from the Dunhuang manu¬ 
scripts often appears inconsistent, since a punctuator did not strive for being con¬ 
sistent but concentrated instead on less obvious passages. 


5.2 Section marks 

These are marks used to denote the beginning of a new section in the text. A 
section is of course a flexible concept, ranging from a few characters to several 
lines. In our modern terminology it comes closest to the paragraph. Generally 


26 I am grateful to Prof. William H. Baxter for elucidating the nuances of these fanqie pronuncia¬ 
tions to me. 



Punctuation Marks in Medieval Chinese Manuscripts 


353 


speaking, section marks differ from separation marks described above in that 
the latter are used for indicating syntactic units (i.e. sentences or clauses), 
whereas the former partition texts into larger, conceptually cohesive segments. 
With respect to their physical appearance, section marks can have various 
forms. In Figure 6/A, for example, the section mark is in the shape of red brack¬ 
ets placed at the top right corner of the new section; in the same manuscript, 
red dots act as separation marks (see 5.1 above) to segment the text into smaller 
syntactic units. 


A: P.2418 B: P.2133 



Fig- 6: Section marks in manuscripts. 


C: P.2133 



D: Or.8210/S.797 


¥ 

1 




«- 

ct 


In Figure 6/B, sections are indicated by large circles (O) placed between char¬ 
acters. Elsewhere in this manuscript, in some cases dots are used instead of 
circles for the same function. Figure 6/C illustrates how in the same manuscript 
the large circles are also used to separate the verses of poems, which are only 
a few characters long and, according to our modern sense of grammar, would 
often belong to the same sentence. In addition. Figure 6/C also shows the use 
of brackets as section marks, although with a slightly different functionality. 
In contrast with the large circles, the brackets mark comments which in our 
modern practice would probably be consigned to a footnote. In contrast with 
the short red brackets in Figure 6/A, the brackets in this manuscript are much 
longer, with their vertical line extending downward along the first few charac¬ 
ters of the comment. 

The manuscript in Figure 6/D uses hook marks to distinguish the beginning 
of new sections. Even when the sections begin on a new line, which is usually the 


354 


Imre Galambos 


case in this manuscript, the bookmark is placed at the top of the line to empha¬ 
size that there is a break between the previous line and this new one. In a few 
instances, whenever space permits, a new section begins on a half-finished line 
after the mark^^ - Figure 6/D shows two such sections beginning halfway through 
the line. 

With respect to the identity of the person adding the marks we can be fairly 
certain that the red marks used in Figure 6/A were added by a later punctuator, 
i.e. these represent secondary notation. In the other three cases (B, C, and D), 
however, it was the copier who added the marks while he was copying the manu¬ 
script. 

Beside the marks described here, the most common way of indicating a new 
section was by starting a new line, leaving the rest of the previous one empty. 
In an effort to make the structure of the text visually more apparent, indenta¬ 
tion was also commonly used. For example, colophons appended at the end of 
manuscripts were typically indented and separated from the main text by several 
lines worth of empty space. Yet another way of controlling the layout was the 
use of condensed spacing for the characters, most commonly used for stanzas 
embedded in Buddhist sutms, as well as chapter titles - these served as obvious 
separators between sections. 


6 Reverence mark 

This mark is not an actual symbol but an empty space^® placed before the name 
or title of a person who is venerated by the community producing the manuscript. 
Usually the space equals to a single character but occasionally it could be longer. 
In some cases, not only the names of revered personages were written in this 
manner but also their attributes. Obviously, the significance of this kind of nota¬ 
tion was to draw the reader’s attention to the particular spot on the page, to make 
the name or title stand out from the rest of the text. The traditional Chinese term 


27 This is only true for smaller sections which can fit onto the remaining space of the line. Sec¬ 
tions that begin halfway through a line invariably end on that same line. If the new section is 
longer, it begins on a new line. 

28 In taking space as a form of punctuation I am following the modern Western understanding 
according to which any symbol used to separate or group text can be considered punctuation. 
See, for example, “Space as a form of punctuation” (Lloyd and Warfel 1957, 368-370). 



Punctuation Marks in Medieval Chinese Manuscripts 


355 


for this device is jingkong (“reverence space”) and it is usually traced back to 
a description by Shen Gua (AIS (1031-1095).^® 

In the manuscript in Figure 7/A, a space is left blank before the word huangdi 
(“emperor”). As an example for the use of a space before a personal name, 
Figure 7/B shows a segment from the text called “The story of Master Yuan from 
Mount Lu” fithiai^iS, where the name of Master Yuan is preceded by an 
empty space. 


A:0r.8210/S.3071 



f3 

r 

A 


d: ur.e5ziu/:5.zu/:> 


iAj 

fX , A 


Fig- 7: Blank space left before titles and names as a sign of respect. 


7 Other marks 

The above types of marks represent the most frequently seen ones in the Dun- 
huang corpus. In categorising the common marks, I intentionally concentrated 
on manuscripts with running text, that is, texts which consist of longer sequences 
of sentences. The ones used in this paper were canonical or commentarial works 
of the main traditions of Chinese religion or philosophy. However, there are also 
manuscripts, although fewer in number, in which content is stored in a highly 
structured manner. These are the dictionaries, prescription manuals, biblio¬ 
graphic catalogues, registers, etc. which organize a large number of short records 
into a database-type format. In order to preserve the transparency of their struc¬ 
ture, such manuscripts utilise a fairly consistent system of punctuation and 
layout, much more so than the ones with a linear flow of text. Therefore, one 
could collect a much larger repertoire of marks which would not, however, be 
necessarily representative for the majority of Dunhuang manuscripts.^” 


29 Mengxi bitan 2003, 271. Shen Gua, however, describes the term jingkong as the space 

left at the end of official communication submitted to superiors, awaiting their comments and 
signifying the unreserved acceptance of those. Therefore, although this usage of space is also a 
sign of respect, it nevertheless serves a different function from the examples here. 

30 In fact, in the classifications of Guan Xihua (2002) and Li Zhengyu (1988) the majority of the 
punctuation marks come from such database-like texts, especially rhyme dictionaries, and in 



356 


Imre Galambos 


The systematic use of punctuation in such texts is documented in the Shitong 
iil, an 8* century work on historiography by Liu Zhiji fij^^ (661-721): 

«-t«» 

In old times, Tao Yinju [i.e. Tao Hongjing 456-536] in his Bencao (Materia Medico) 

used red and black dots to mark the names of herbs with cold and hot tastes [i.e. effects]. 
Ruan Xiaoxu (479-536) in his Qilu (The Seven Records Catalogue) wrote out the titles of 
books from the Wende Palace collection with a red brush. By this means differences were 
distinguishable and categories recognizable.^^ 

The Bencao was essentially an inventory of herbs, and the Qilu a catalogue of 
books, thus both were compilations of a series of individual entries, similar to 
modern databases. The coherent use of a sophisticated system of color dots was 
an effective method to signify the hierarchies and relationships in the texts. An 
interest in the accessibility of records is voiced in the “Foreword” of Lu Deming’s 
(556-627) celebrated dictionary, the Jingdian shiwen where he explains that 
he “wrote the text of the classics in black ink and the annotations to those with red 
characters, in order to distinguish the two and so that they can be located easily.”^^ 


8 Summary 

The Dunhuang manuscripts demonstrate the existence of a sophisticated and 
mature system of punctuation in the scribal tradition of early medieval and medi¬ 
eval times. While Chinese writing in general functioned well without punctua¬ 
tion, a series of marks were used by the scribes and readers on a daily basis. Some 
of the marks (i.e. correction, repetition, abbreviation and reverence marks) were 
part of the scribal habits, while others (i.e. phonetic and segmentation marks) 
were primarily used in commentarial and educational contexts. In addition, a 
more elaborate and fairly consistent notational system was employed in inven¬ 
tory-type texts, such as dictionaries, prescription manuals, catalogues, registers. 


some cases are rather atypical for the entire corpus. One of the marks they documented was, for 
example, the so-called “substitution mark” occurring only in a limited number of dictionaries 
as a symbol roughly equivalent to the “tilde” or “swung-dash” used in modern lexicography. In 
contrast with their approach, the categories and examples recorded by Pan Zhonggui (1981) and 
Ishizuka (1970, 1981, 1993) are more representative, as they originate from more typical manu¬ 
scripts with continuous text. 

31 Liu Zhiji, Shitong 1997,127. 

32 Lu Deming 1985, “Preface” 



Punctuation Marks in Medieval Chinese Manuscripts 


357 


References 

Bichurin, Nikita (1838), Kitaiskaia Grammatika (Hanwen qimeng St. Petersburg: 

V Litographii Gemiliana. 

Chen, Kui fSR (1998), Nan Song guan ge lu Beijing: Zhonghua shuju. Edited and 

punctuated by Zhang Fuxiang ?Ia#. 

Cherniack, Susan (199A), “Book culture and textual transmission in Sung China”, in: Harvard 
Journal of Asiatic Studies 54:1, 5-125. 

Drege, Jean-Pierre (1991), “La lecture et I’ecriture en Chine et la xylographie”, in: budes 
chinoisesX-.l-l, 77-106. 

Fiihrer, Bernhard (ed.) (2005), Aspekte des Lesens in China in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart, 
Edition Cathay, Bd. 54. Bochum: Projekt Verlag. 

Fiihrer, Bernhard / Behr, Wolfgang (2005), “Einfiihrende Notizen zum Lesen in China mit 
besonderer Beriicksichtigung der Friihzeit”, in: Fiihrer 2005,1-44. 

Guan, Xihua (2002), Zhongguo gudai biaodian fuhao fazhanshi rpHS 
Chengdu: Bashu shushe. 

Flarbsmeier, Christoph (1998), Science and Civilisation in China. Vol. 7, Part 1: Language and 
Logic (edited by Kenneth Robinson), New York: Cambridge University Press. 

Flu, Shi iJB (1919), Zhongguozhexueshi dagang Shanghai: Shanghai shangwu 

yinshuguan. 

Ishizuka, Flarumichi 5S8fii (1970), “Rdran, Tonkd no katenbon #W SStO)l[lttz|s;”, in: Bokubi 
■11201, 2-38. 

Ishizuka, Flarumichi (1981), “The texts of Lunyu, with commentaries by Cheng FIsuan, 
discovered in Tunhuang and Turfan”, in: Journal Asiatique CCLXIX, 101-108. 

Ishizuka, Flarumichi (1993), “The origins of thessu-sheng marks”, \n: Acta Asiatica 65, 30-50. 

Li, Xingjian et al. (2001), Yuyan wenziguifan shiyongzhinan 

Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe. 

Li, Zhengyu (1988), “Dunhuangyishu zhongde biaodian fuhao 
in: WenshizhishiS!:i.iaM 8, 98-101. 

Liu, Zhiji iiJJHIi (1997), Shitong iil, Shenyang: Liaoning jiaoyu chubanshe (edited and 
punctuated by Fluang Shoucheng 

Lloyd, j. Donald / Warfel, Flarry R. (1957), American English in its Cultural Setting, New York: 
Alfred A. Knopf. 

Lu, Doming (1985), Jingdian shiwen Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe 

(Facsimile edition). 

Luo, Zhenyu / Wang, Guowei iglii (1993), Liushazhuijian Beijing: Zhonghua 

shuju (Originally published in 1914, then corrected and reprinted in 1934). 

Pan, Zhonggui MMW, (1981), “Dunhuang juanzi suxie wenzi yu suwenxue zhi yanjiu 

in: Zhongyang yanjiuyuan guoji hanxue huiyi lunwenji (Wenxuezu) 
(itWffi), Taipei: Academia Sinica, 1-12. 

Shen, Gua ifcfi (2003), Mengxi bitan Lidai biji congkan Shanghai: 

Shanghai shudian. 

Zhang, Bowel ffi# (2001), “Pingdian silun ffSSFgim”, m-. Zhongguoxueshu rplISW 2,1-40. 

Zhang, Xiaoyan (2003), “Shanzi fuhao bu yu Dunhuang wenxian de jiedu 

SJCffliMftlll”, in: Dunhuang yanjiu SfiWSE 79:3, 71-73. 



James Robson 

The Archive Inside: Manuscripts Found 
within Chinese Religious Statues 


Printed books will never be the equivalent of handwritten codices, especially since printed 
books are often deficient in spelling and appearance. 


Trithemius, “In Praise of Copying” 

It has taken scholars of Chinese religions a rather long time to come to terms with 
the limitations of working solely with incunabula and later typeset editions of 
texts and to realize the potential virtues of working with manuscript versions of 
texts. In the present digital age, new avenues of scholarship have been opened 
up, but the distance between contemporary scholars and pre-modern manu¬ 
scripts has grown even further apart. Attention to Chinese religious manuscripts 
in the age of print (and digitisation) has suffered in part at least due to the high 
profile history of the invention and development of printing technology in China 
from about the century onward. Although the printing of individual texts and 
canons accelerated rapidly from the 10**' century to the present, that trend did 
not lead to a disappearance of manuscript culture. The rich history of manuscript 
culture in China has been traced (thanks to a richly documented archaeological 
record) from bamboo or wooden slips tied with cords, to the use of silk, silk waste, 
old linen, rags, fish nets, hemp, and mulberry bark used to make a paste which 
was dried and used like paper.* Despite the development of new technologies 
and new media, the practice of producing handwritten versions of texts on paper 
persisted alongside of the new technology of printing and has endured down to 
the present day. Yet, as was the case with the history of handwritten texts after 
the Gutenberg revolution in the West, there has been inadequate scholarly con¬ 
sideration of the status of writing in the period after the introduction of printing.^ 
We are encouraged to take manuscripts seriously, however, since, as Lucille Chia 
has noted, there was “an enduring interaction of manuscript and print in China,” 
with some printed books being hand copied and books with handwritten margi¬ 
nalia making their way into print. Roger Chartier has also cautioned that “having 
invented moveable type, for the most part the East did not use it,” since it was 
largely reserved for particular types of texts such as elite official documents and 


1 Guignard 1997, 72; see also Drege 1991; and Tsien 1962. 

2 See Eisenstein 1983,1. 



360 


James Robson 


the Classics.^ Thus, it is not surprising to find out that “although Sung printers 
were prolific, the majority of books in Sung imperial and private libraries were 
still manuscripts,” and those manuscripts were usually held in higher regard 
than the imprints, as Susan Cherniack has pointed out.'' 

Scholars of Chinese literature have for some time realized the importance of 
manuscripts for helping to reveal some of the ways that what we read today in 
the received print versions of texts is the product of a complex history of editing, 
alteration and evolution. Many of the issues that have been raised in that field 
are equally applicable to the study of religious texts. Xiaofei Tian has succinctly 
noted the complexity of the situation: “Texts” she writes, “are altered, truncated, 
and rewritten. Even authorship changes; names are appended to works that Took 
like’ someone’s writing or removed from those that do not ‘fit in’ with an author’s 
perceived style or personality. The ‘definitive editions’ passed on to us, medi¬ 
ated by the editing of Ming and Qing scholars, must be recognised for what they 
truly are: the products of layers upon layers of emendations that more often than 
not are ideological decisions. Copying texts by hand was, moreover, practiced 
throughout imperial China, despite the spread of printing.”^ All of this new evi¬ 
dence has served to highlight the processed nature of printed sources, which have 
gone under the hand of many editors who manipulated the text in sometimes 
rather intrusive ways by standardising stories, presenting a unified vision of 
history, and editing out the unseemly. Therefore, while there has been a gradual 
evolution from handwritten texts to the use of woodblock printing and eventually 
to a majority of texts being printed with moveable type, manuscripts neverthe¬ 
less remained in use and there are many collections of handwritten manuscripts 
related to a number of disciplines - including literature, politics, religion, ritual, 
theatre, and sociology - that await systematic scholarly study and analysis. We 
also await future work on a variety of what might be referred to as pre-texts, which 
would include any type of preliminary draft. In the face of much recent work on 
the culture of manuscripts in China were are therefore invited to question Joseph 
Needham’s claim that follovdng the invention and spread of printing, “practi¬ 
cally everything in Chinese is either printed or lost.”" The recent interest in the 
study of manuscripts, that the essays in this volume demonstrate, has reached a 
new level of sophistication, is not entirely new, but is the most recent iteration of 


3 Chia 2002,11-12, 40-42 and Chartier 1996, 1. 

4 Cherniack 1994,33. A similar situation appears to have existed in the West, since as Cerquiglini 
has posited, scriptoria were held in higher regard than early printing houses (see Cerquiglini 
1999, 3). 

5 Tian 2005, 221. 

6 Needham 1970, 24. 



The Archive Inside: Manuscripts Found within Chinese Religious Statues 


361 


a distinct subfield within the study of Chinese history and religion. The field of 
Sinology may finally be close to reaching the position where we can confidently 
claim - along with Bernard Cerquiglini - that “the manuscript, which has long 
been pushed to the margins of legitimate reflection and sometimes even obliter¬ 
ated - the abominable trace of some positivist concern - is now the latest object 
of analysis,” but we still await some foundational studies that will help to draw 
together some of the different strands of research that have been completed to 
date.^ I will leave it to others to counter Needham’s claim based on empirical evi¬ 
dence from their particular domains of research, but for my part here, I will be 
focusing on evidence for the persistence of the use of manuscripts in the context 
of Chinese religious history and local religious culture. 

Manuscripts have not been entirely ignored by scholars of Chinese religions, 
but the focus of that work has tended to be uneven. One could make a persuasive 
argument, however, that some of the most significant recent developments in the 
fields of Chinese Buddhist and Daoist studies have been ignited by the unearthing 
and study of surviving manuscript collections. The highest profile discovery of 
our time was no doubt the bringing to light of a rich cache of manuscripts at Dun- 
huang in far western China at the turn of the century. Although the finding 
of the Diamond Sutra - dated to 868 and therefore the oldest dated printed book 
in the world, though other printed materials already existed - among that cache 
of materials has attracted inordinate attention, the printed materials found at 
Dunhuang are far outnumbered by handwritten manuscripts. The Dunhuang dis¬ 
coveries, and subsequent discoveries of manuscripts from Turfan and other Silk 
Route locales, caused great excitement and spawned an outpouring of studies 
that infected just about every subfield in the study of Chinese religion. The impact 
of those studies is still being felt in relation to Buddhist studies (particularly Chan 
Buddhism and the study of Buddhist apocrypha), Daoist studies, astronomy, divi¬ 
nation and calendrics, as well as social, political, and legal history.® The large 


7 Cerquiglini 1999, i. 

8 The secondary literature on the study of Dunhuang Buddhist manuscripts is too numerous to 

cite in full here, but see, for example, (in alphabetic order) Adamek 2007; Broughton 1999; Bus- 
well 1990; Demieville 1952 and 1973; Drege 1999; Faure 1988 and 1997; Forte 1976; Fujieda 1966 
and 1969; Gao Guofan aHS 1989 and 1994; Gernet 1956; Hu Shi 1968; Hubbard 2001; Ikeda 
On it!lE3/S 1979; Kalinowski 2003; Kuo Li-ying 1994; Mair 1989; Makita Tairyo 1976; Maki- 

ta Tairyo / Fukui Fumimasa 1984; McRae 1986; Mollier 2008; Nishiwaki 2007; 

Soymie 1979, 1981, 1984; Tanaka Ryosho EftiMBp 1983, Teiser 1994; Yampolsky 1967, Yanagida 
1967. The study of Daoist Dunhuang manuscripts has also attracted attention, see Bokenkamp 
1997; Kanaoka Shoko Ikeda On >t!lH/m, and Fukui Fumimasa 1983; Mollier 

1990; Ofuchi Ninji 1978; Rao Zongyi USE! 1956; Schipper 1985; Seidel 1969; Wu 1960; 

Yoshioka Yoshitoyo 1959-1976. 



362 


James Robson 


cache of handwritten manuscripts relative to printed texts at Dunhuang further 
demonstrates how the use of manuscripts persisted through the 11* century - 
when the caves were sealed - even as printing was becoming more widespread.® 

While the field of Dunhuang studies has dominated (and continues to domi¬ 
nate) the scholarship on religious manuscripts in Europe, the US, China and 
Japan for the past century, the continued discovery of other types of manuscripts 
in China coupled with new manuscript discoveries in Japan during the late 
1980’s, again re-energized the study of Chinese religious manuscripts. During a 
series of visits to Nanatsudera -b ^ - an ancient temple in downtown Nagoya - in 
1990 led by Ochiai Toshinori a number of significant new manuscripts 

of Buddhist texts came to light.The Nanatsudera cache includes a manuscript 
set of the Buddhist canon that is comprised of some 1,162 works in nearly 5,000 
juan (rolls) that were copied between 1175 and 1180. Although this set of manu¬ 
scripts had been known to the academic world as early as 1900, the full impor¬ 
tance of the collection was not known until after the systematic survey done in 
1990, when it was discovered that this handwritten canon was not merely a copy 
of a printed edition of the canon, but contained versions of texts that predated the 
Song dynasty edition of the canon, many apocryphal works (including the earli¬ 
est extant apocryphon entitled Piluo sanmeijing HlkPH 0^,g), and editions of texts 
that were thought to be long lost (including the Sanjiefofa a key text in 

the Three Stages movement). The initial attention to the dramatic discovery at 
Nanantsudera (and subsequent discoveries at Kongoji and other temples) 
has not led to an outpouring of new research and those manuscripts have regret¬ 
tably inspired few studies outside of Japan. 

The discovery of apocryphal manuscripts and manuscripts of texts long 
thought to be lost has been a significant development in the study of Chinese 
religions, but most of the extant texts discovered thus far are the product of elite 
circles. It has been much more difficult to gain access to manuscripts related to 
popular forms of religious beliefs and practices. One of the reasons for that dif¬ 
ficulty is that non-elite forms of manuscripts rarely circulate widely or freely in 
the light of day. Over the past two decades, however, scholars doing fieldwork in 
various regions of China have brought to our attention the surprising survival of 
wide range of religious manuscripts, including (among other things) handwrit¬ 
ten (chaohen ritual manuals {keyi ben ^(ft^) and family genealogies (jiapu 


9 Carter 1955, 57. 

10 For a description of this discovery and the nature of the manuscripts found at Nanatsudera 
see Ochiai 1991, and the essays contained therein by Antonino Forte and Makita Tairyo. 

11 One important exception is Hubbard 2000. 



The Archive Inside: Manuscripts Found within Chinese Religious Statues 


363 


S^ia). These new discoveries have already forced us to begin to revise our tradi¬ 
tional picture of Chinese religionsT^ 

In addition to the advancements made in the study of Dunhuang manuscripts 
and other forms of religious manuscripts, the one area of significant new work 
that I would like to introduce here is the history of the placing manuscripts inside 
of Buddhist statues. This section will also serve to provide the background and 
historical context for the following section of the paper regarding the interring of 
manuscripts inside of statues in the Hunan region. There is a paucity of surviving 
evidence that impedes our ability to provide a complete account of the prehistory 
of the practice of placing documents - along with other things such as symbolic 
viscera and small animals - inside of statues. Based on surviving evidence and 
textual information, it seems that the practice of placing manuscripts inside of 
statues is first found in China in connection with Buddhism, and the practice 
can be clearly traced back to Indian Buddhist precedents and traced forward to 
developments in Korea and Japan.There is a large body of evidence on placing 
texts and relics inside of stupas and statues in India. With the departure of the 
Buddha, as Daniel Boucher has noted, the Buddhist tradition struggled with two 
competing tendencies: “to locate the Buddha in his corporeal body, especially 
as left behind in his relics; or to locate the “true” Buddha in the dharma, his 
teachings.”^'* In terms of our topic here, we find both the interring of relics and 
texts within Buddhist statuary (and in reliquaries and stupas), from a very early 
strata of Buddhist history. During his travels in India in the 7*^ century, Xuan- 
zang (602-664) observed, “There is a practice in India of making incense 
powder into paste to make small stupas 5 to 6 inches high. People write [pieces of] 
scripture and place them into the interior [of these small stupas]. They call these 
dharmasanm."^ In confirmation of Xuanzang’s observations the archaeological 
record has turned up abundant evidence of this practice. In a different Buddhist 
text translated by Divakara in the 7* century we read that “if inside this stupa 
one encloses the [body of the] Tathagatha down to even one minute portion of his 
relics, hair, teeth, beard, or fingernails; or else if one deposits the twelve section 
scripture, which is the storehouse of the Tathagata’s dharma, down to even one 
four line verse, this person’s merit will be as great as the brahma heaven.In 
short; both relics and texts may consecrate a stupa. Contemporaneous with this 


12 This literature is now quite extensive, see among others, Lagerwey 1996-2002; Wang Ch’iu- 
kuei 1993, and the review of some of the literature in Overmyer 2002. 

13 On this general phenomena see Robson 2015. 

14 Boucher 1991,1. 

15 T.51.920a21-23. Translation follows that in Boucher 1991, 7. 

16 Translation here from Boucher 1991, 9. 



364 


James Robson 


practice of consecrating stupas, however, is an increasing use throughout the 
Buddhist world of relics and texts to consecrate statues. In the account of his 
travels in India and the Malay Archipelago the Chinese pilgrim Yijing (635- 
713) recorded that “when the people make images and kaityas (caityas) which 
consist of gold, silver, copper, iron, earth, lacquer, bricks and stone, or when they 
heap up the snowy sand (lit. sand-snow), they put in the images or kaityas two 
kinds of sariras [relics]. 1. The relics of the Great Teacher. 2. The Gatha of the 
Chain of Causation.In a short sutra preserved in Chinese entitled On The Merit 
of Bathing the Buddha, translated by Yijing in 710, we also read; 

Noble son, all Buddhas, World - Honored Ones have three bodies. They are known as the 
dharmakaya, the sambogakaya, and the nirmanakaya. After my nirvana, whoever wishes 
to do homage to these three bodies, should do homage to my relics. But, there are two 
kinds: the first is the bodily relic, the second is the dharma-verse relic. 1 will now recite 
the verse: ‘All things arise from a cause; The Tathagata has explained their cause; The ces¬ 
sation of the cause of these things; This the great ascetic has explained.’ If men, women, 
or the five groups of mendicants would build an image of the Buddha, of if those without 
strength would deposit one as large as a grain of barley, or build a stupa - its body the size 
of a jujube, its mast the size of a needle, its parasol equal to a flake of bran, its relic like 
a mustard seed ... If in accordance with one’s own strength and ability one can be truly 
sincere and respectful, it [the image or the stupa] would be like my present body, equal 
without difference.^* 

Another short text from Gilgit states that “images of the Buddha should be made 
either tall or short and with either a relic or with the pratityasamutpada gatha 
inside.”^® There is, therefore, abundant evidence that in India images and stupas 
were already being consecrated with relics and texts. A later Indian text - the 
Vajravali by Abhayakaragupta (1064?-1125?) - explicates, for example, that “you 
should at the time of the making of an image leave the head or back hollow. When 
completed you should write a dharani on birch bark with saffron or bezoar and 
wrap them around the relic which as been purified through the bathing ritual and 
then place them in the hollow space.There is, therefore, abundant evidence 
that in India Buddhist images and stupas were already being consecrated with 
relics and handwritten manuscripts. 

Evidence for the fact that the practice of interring objects and manuscripts 
inside of statues spread to East Asia is perhaps best preserved in Japan, though 


17 Takakusu 1966,150. 

18 Boucher 1995, 65. 

19 Tathagatabimbakarapanasutra (Gilgit Ms. No. 18). Cited in Boucher 1991,14. 

20 Bentor 1995, 255. See also Bentor 1996. 



The Archive Inside: Manuscripts Found within Chinese Religious Statues 


365 


I can only mention a single key example in the space available here.^^ In 1954, 
Japanese scholars made an important discovery while conducting research on 
the Seiryoji Shaka During the course of their research they found that 

the image had a rather large cavity on its backside (51/2"' x ll" and 3" deep) that 
was stuffed with 500 different types of objects. Prior to a pioneering article pub¬ 
lished in 1956 by Henderson and Hurvitz that statue had not attracted attention 
by art historians.^^ Based on an inscription on the backside of the cover of the 
cache we know that the image was made between the 9‘*' day of the eigth month 
and the 5* day of the ninth month 985 for Chdnen (938-1016), a Japanese 
pilgrim who came to China and returned in 986, by two brothers - named Zhang 
Yanjiao and Zhang Yanxi - from Taizhou (modern Zhejiang 

Province). The objects in the back of the statue had all been wrapped in cloth and 
can be grouped into four major categories: intestines, manuscripts, textiles, and 
misc. objects. The intestines are about 50” long and are made of silk and flecked 
with ink to make it appear food is moving through the tract. At the end of the silk 
tube is a circular silk pouch labeled “stomach.” The other end of the silk tube 
has another object that may be the bladder. Other objects represent the liver, gall 
bladder, kidneys, lungs and heart. The urnd on the forehead may cover another 
cavity where the Buddha’s tooth relic is installed (at least this is what the inven¬ 
tory list claims). 

The “oath text” by the monk Chdnen and his friend Gizd that was completed 
in 972 gives a sense of their religious fervor and is signed with imprints of their 
hands done in (presumably their own) blood. The “catalogue” lists all the items 
interred at the time the statue was consecrated and the cavity sealed. The cata¬ 
logue also reveals that the intestines were made and donated by three Buddhist 
nuns from the Miaoshan Monastery ^ and seven other women from Taizhou. 

The donors mentioned on the list are exclusively monks and nuns and there is 
only one elite government official that is named. Most pertinent to this study is 
the presence in the cache of handwritten copies of the Suvarnapmbhdsa Sutra 
and Lotus Sutra. The cache also included a wood block print of the Vajracchedikd 
Prajndparamitd Sutra that is dated to 985 - the year the statue was closed - which 
was commissioned by a donor named Wu Shouzhen There are also a 

number of pictures of the Buddha and various bodhisattvas, coins, and a bronze 
mirror with an image of Guanyin/Kannon on it, glass fragments, small pieces of 
silver, mica flakes, a small brass bell, and over 400 mostly small fragments of 110 


21 See Kurata Bunsaku 1973. The Japanese secondary literature on interred objects is 

now immense and impossible to cite in its entirety. 

22 Henderson / Hurvitz 1956. The following description of the contents of the statue draws on 
the report of Henderson / Hurvitz 1956. 



366 


James Robson 


different varieties of textiles. In their study of this image Henderson and Hurvitz 
claimed that many other images wrould have had just these kinds of contents, but 
regretfully they do not detail the other statues vdth interred objects that they may 
have been awrare of. 

It is not possible here to detail the full range of manuscripts that have been 
found interred inside of statues or other objects, but the number of manuscripts 
found thus far suggested that further investigation and research is rvarranted. 
Nowr, horwever, I rvould like to turn my attention to the more recent discovery of a 
cache of manuscripts that has opened up new possibilities for studying local and 
popular forms of Chinese religion. In 1984, Chinese customs officials in Hunan 
province intercepted a shipping container filled with nearly a thousand small 
wooden religious statuettes bound for the antiquities markets in Hong Kong. The 
seizure of that shipment did not attract the attention of the news media or schol¬ 
ars and the statues were eventually deposited in the Hunan Provincial Museum 
where they have remained on storage shelves. Since 1984, four other private col¬ 
lections of statues, each with over one thousand statues, have come to light (two 
in China, one in the US, and one in Taiwan).Beginning with a project headed 
by Prof. Alain Arrault of the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient, all of these collec¬ 
tions are now being catalogued and studied. The main object of the larger project 
is to create a single interactive digital archive and database of the statues by pro¬ 
viding pictures of the statues, an inventory of the objects interred inside, scans 
of the documents, transcriptions of the documents, and rich descriptions of the 
attributes of each statue.^'* There is not enough space in the confines of this essay 
to address the particularities of each of the statue collections, but suffice it to say 
here that nearly all of the statues - despite where they were collected or are pres¬ 
ently housed - originated in Hunan province (or in adjoining regions). The oldest 
extant statue in these collections dates from the Ming dynasty, but the majority 
date from the Qing dynasty to the present day. 

How are these statues related to manuscripts? While there is still much to 
be learned from the detailed study of these statues regarding the local religious 
practices of the Hunan region, what is most pertinent to the present essay is what 
is found inside of them.^^ Indeed, it is the Hunan statue’s contents that are their 
most distinctive feature and sets them apart from similar statues found in other 
regions of China, such as those in the famous de Groot collection of deity statues 


23 The most comprehensive description and study of the collections in China is now Arrault 
2008. For a brief discussion of the collection in Milwaukee, USA, see Robson 2007. 

24 For a description of the database and some example data entry cards see Arrault 2008. 

25 For more general studies see Arrault / Bussotti 2008; Arrault 2008; Fu Juliang -BRS 1998; 
and Stevens 1978. 



The Archive Inside: Manuscripts Found within Chinese Religious Statues 


367 


from Fujian.^® The statuettes from Hunan are distinguished by the fact that they 
contain a small niche carved into their backside that is stuffed with a variety of 
objects including such things as herbs, paper money, desiccated insects. The 
primary object in the cache for the purposes of the present essay on manuscripts 
is, however, a “consecration certificate” {yizhi me), which is a handwritten manu¬ 
script providing an unprecedented amount of information that is placed inside of 
the statue during an elaborate “eye opening” consecration ritual {kaiguang 
I have therefore begun to treat these documents as constituting an alternative 
form of a manuscript archive that differs somewhat from the kind of documents 
that one finds in libraries or other manuscript collections. The consecration cer¬ 
tificates tend to have a rather standardised form - as we will see below - though 
the content of the certificate can vary dramatically in length, from a few lines to a 
few pages. In the space available in this essay I intend to provide a description of 
this alternative archive and its potential value for the study of Chinese religions. 

When one of these small wooden statues is turned around one finds a small 
cavity that is covered with a plug of wood. Removing the wooden cover reveals 
the cache of materials and the consecration certificate - though it should also be 
noted that some statues are also embellished with inscriptions on the outside that 
share much in common with the paper documents found inside of the statues. 
Extracting the paper from the statue and preparing it for the making of the digital 
scan can present problems for the researcher. The paper manuscripts have been 
folded up inside of these statues for a long time - in some cases for centuries - 
under less than ideal circumstances. Over time the paper may have become dete¬ 
riorated due to exposure to moisture, or it may have become “glued” together 
due its proximity to the organic matter that is also found in the cache. The main 
issue that is faced is how to “open” them to obtain a clear scan of the document 
and retrieve the information they contain. At the outset of this project I spent 
some time working with paper conservators at the University of Michigan in order 
to develop different techniques for successfully opening up these manuscripts.^^ 
While some problems still remain, we made much progress in understanding how 
to deal with the most problematic cases. In most cases, it was sufficient to merely 
expose the paper to moisture, either by suspending them over a water bath, by 
using a fine mist, or by soaking them in water. In some cases, however, when 
the paper was in a fragile state it was best to use alcohol to assist in the process. 
The most problematic manuscripts to unfold are, in my experience at least, those 


26 Werblowsky / Stevens / Mourer 2003. See also Yang Yanjie 2009. 

27 I appreciate the time, assistance, and resources provided by Shannon Zachary (Head of Pres¬ 
ervation and Conservation) and Cathleen A. Baker (Senior Paper Conservator) of the Preservation 
and Conservation unit of the University of Michigan Library. 



368 


James Robson 


that have talismans that were consecrated with what appears to be some kind of 
animal blood (probably that of a rooster) and have become stuck together. 

In general, the consecration certificates begin with the precise address of 
the home or shrine were a statue was installed, indicating the district, town, 
village, name of temple or Miaowang JUi - a religious site that falls between the 
City God temples (Chenghuang miao ^PiJH) and the smaller Earth Deity altars 
(Tudi ci Those addresses are given in the designations that correspond 

to the dynasty and the administrative divisions used during that period and can 
therefore be very difficult to convert to contemporary locations. Following the 
“address” is a section that includes the names of all of the patrons who com¬ 
missioned the statue. While many of the consecration certificates merely contain 
lists of names, some of them also contain short biographies that can be valuable 
when used in conjunction with other types of sources, such as family genealo¬ 
gies {jiapu Mm). Now that we have a rather large database of these manuscripts 
we can begin to study a variety of connections between the names mentioned. 
Within a consecration certificate we might find, for example, that the name of 
a son or grandson appears in the dedication of an image to his father or grand¬ 
father. That same name might also appear on a consecration certificate from 70 
years later, but now as the object of a statue consecrated on his behalf, with a 
corresponding list of the names of his own offspring who were responsible for 
commissioning the statue. Furthermore, based on the data on the consecration 
certificates we can perform a search on a particular name that appears as a patron 
(or a specific address) in order to gain a sense of what one family’s domestic altar 
might have looked like. 

Next on the consecration certificate comes the name of the figure represented 
by the statuette. The fact that the consecration certificate provides the precise 
identity of the statue takes away much of the guesswork that is associated with 
identifications based solely on external iconographic features. The identities of 
the statues can be classified into four general categories: national deities, local 
deities, ancestors, and Daoist priests or ritual masters. 

Following the name on the consecration certificate is the reason for the con¬ 
secration. This section of the consecration certificate can vary dramatically in 
both the specificity of content and length. The reasons given for the consecration 
of a statue tend to fall into two general types of categories: 1) those expressing 
a vow or wish for something, referred to as a xuyuan ITU and 2) those express¬ 
ing thanks for something provided by the deity, referred to as a huanyuan MM. 
While the vows to deities often have a rather general, or even formulaic, content - 
see the example given below - others reveal more intimate concerns, such as a 
request that a father, mother or son recover from a specific illness. 


The Archive Inside: Manuscripts Found within Chinese Religious Statues 


369 


The final written information on the consecration certificate is usually the 
name of the carver of the statue. This seemingly trivial information turns out to 
be quite useful, though it requires us to emerge out of the darkness of the cavity 
and into the light of the carver’s workshop. Once this project is completed and we 
have the data from all of the different statue collections in a fully searchable rela¬ 
tional database, then we can begin to do searches on particular carvers names 
and paint a clearer picture of the context for the production of these statues. 
What is already evident, however, is that carvers of statues did not just repre¬ 
sent a trade, but they were in fact religious specialists themselves (like those who 
were members of other guilds). Statue carvers are connected with the guild of 
wood carvers and their initiation into carving is just like initiation into a religious 
lineage. The carving process itself has religious elements, and when a statue 
is completed for a client the carver can then don his religious vestments and 
perform the consecration ritual. Many of the consecration certificates are closed 
with a string of talismans {fu lu which can invoke the presence of a litany 
of local and trans-regional deities. 

Let us now take a look at one of the consecration certificates [M0094] to gain 
a better sense of their form and content. 


da1« nxn* 9 I tUliM 



Fig- 1: Consecration certificate from Hunan [M009A], ArtAsia collection, Milwaukee, Wl. 


This consecration certificate [M0094] begins with an invocation stating that this 
statue is extremely auspicious and that its numinous qualities can bring protec¬ 
tion and peace.^® Next, the precise address where this statue was located is pro¬ 
vided: a local village shrine in the Shaoyang district of Baoqing prefecture 


28 M0094 refers to a manuscript within the Milwaukee collection. 






370 


James Robson 


$BJS in Hunan province It also provides the names of all of the patrons 

who commissioned the carving of this statue, including: Zhou Weichang JlISfi, 
his wife nee Hu 4SK, their eldest son Hehan and his vdfe nee Fan the 
daughters Hejin ^0:^ and Helin ^0#. It also includes the names of the family 
members living in their house including: Zhou Weizhi and his vdfe (xieshi 
nee Zeng^R, their sons Hexing Hecai Heshu ^0^ and daughters 
Xingjin and Dongjin The statue is identified as being of their ancestor 
named Zhou Falong JliStI, who was born in 1847 and died in 1901. The “inten¬ 
tion,” or reason for consecration, is presented in a general formulaic pattern: “So 
that there will be protection and auspiciousness for all family members, so that 
the six domestic animals will be peaceful, and that all the family’s affairs will be 
propitious. May the males enjoy good fortune and the females receive good luck.” 
Then follows the date that the statue was consecrated with an “eye opening” cer¬ 
emony: 1914, and the name of the sculptor: Zhou Falei Jl;i M. 

These statues and their manuscripts provide access to the normally impen¬ 
etrable realm of non-elite religion as it is practiced inside of the home. The manu¬ 
scripts also lead us into the realms of local history, religion, and culture, that are 
not well attested in Chinese printed sources. At the same time, however, these 
manuscripts lead us out into other manuscript archives (such as handwritten 
ritual manuals, family genealogies, and documents in regional archives), which 
help to provide a more robust liturgical, social and historical context for inter¬ 
preting their content. Despite the development and spread of printing technology 
in China, in addition to the trenchant critiques and proscriptions of religion at 
different junctures in Chinese history, manuscripts related to the beliefs and prac¬ 
tices of religion can still be found. If anything, the manuscripts found within the 
statues from the Hunan region - and other recently discovered manuscripts, such 
as those found at Nanatsudera in Japan - should encourage scholars to redouble 
their efforts in searching for extant manuscripts. Significant manuscript collec¬ 
tions survive in unlikely places in contemporary China. The extra effort expended 
to unearth them promises to be worthwhile, since their contents 'will no doubt 
add significant new bodies of information that are not usually found in printed 
texts. 


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Index 


Abhayakaragupta 36A 
Aksum 39-AO, 48 
Aksumite Collection 60-64 
Alberuni 191-192 
Alexander the Great 189,216 
Anavataptagatha 186,190 
andemta 55-59 

annotation 18, 20, 58-59,131-137,142-145, 
316, 321-323 

Aramaic 163,183,214-220 
archetype 52-53, 58, 63-64,124 
Aristotle 9-10,16, 21-22 
Asoka 163,214 

Basalota Mika’el 45 
BhakhshalT manuscript 263, 268 
Bible 13, 41, 43-44, 50-51 
bilingual manuscripts 126-131,149 
book covers 49-50, 82-83, 285-286, 288, 
292-293, 297 

book formats 49-50,275,285,294 

- codex 37-40, 49, 80, 82, 88,110, 220 

- scroll (roll) 37, 49,166,183ff, 287, 309, 

343 

- pothi 191, 276, 285-288, 294, 309 
bookbinding 42, 49-50, 82-83, 95,102,121, 

285, 297 

Borno Qur’anic manuscripts 113-120, 
124-129 

Buddhism 159,167,183, 219ff, 227ff, 259, 
277, 361, 363-364 
Byzantium 

- First Byzantine Humanism 11-14,29 

Cerquiglini, Bernard 360-361 

Chartier, Roger 359-360 

China 79-80, 96-97,100-109, 341ff, 359ff 

- Chinese classics 348,350,356,360 
Christianity 39, 48 

codicology 45, 49-50, 79, 276 

- cf. book formats 

- cf. bookbinding 
consecration certificate 367-369 
consecration ritual 367, 369 


Contini, Gianfranco 53-54 
copyists 38, 42-43, 49, 51, 58, 60, 64, 81, 
83,85-86,108, 262 
Curtius Rufus 189 

Dabra Bizan 43-44 
Daoism 361 

dating 45, 48,128, 229, 268, 279, 291-295, 
300-304 

Dharmapada 183ff 
DharmasarTra 363 
Diamond Sutra 361 
DTrghagama 191, 227ff 
Dunhuang 302-306, 309, 323, 329, 341, 
346-350, 352, 355-356, 361-362 

education 51,143,151,167,356 
Ekottarikagama 190, 263 
’Enda ’Abba Garima 48 
Eritrea 37-38, 46 
Ethiopia 37ff 

Famen menhuan 102,107-110 

Gandhara 159,183ff 
GandharT 183-184, 207, 218, 220 
Gargam manuscripts 120-121,124-125 
Gedimu (qadTm) 101 

genealogical lists 53,113,116,118-120, 362, 
370 

Gilgit 204, 227ff 

glosses 29, 96, 98,100,110-111,115,127, 
131,134-135,143,145 
Guanyin 365 

handwriting (identification) 332-339 
Henderson, Gregory 365 
History of the Alexandrian Episcopate 63 
huanyuan 368 

Hunan 363, 366-367, 369-370 
Hurvitz, Leon 365-366 

ioannikios 22 

ijaza 94-95,105,108-109,110 


376 


Index 


JamT, Nural-DTn 99 
Jingdian shiwen 346-347,356 

Kalidasa 165,189,199 
Kanem 115ff 
Kanem-Borno 115ff 
Kanembu 115ff 
Kaniska 185, 221 
Kannon 365 
Kanuri 113ff 
KhadgavisanasQtra 190 
Khri Lde srong brtsan 306 
Khri Srong Ide brtsan 306 
Kongdji 362 
Kubrawiyya 99 
Kumarasambhava 189 

Lachmann, Karl 52-53 
Ladakh 304,312 

layout 93,120,122-129,144-149, 228, 289 

- cf. ruling 

MaMingxin 103,105 
Mada’ih 99,104-105 
MaghribT 87ff, 110 
Makandikavadana 189-192 
marks 

- abbreviation 15, 348ff 

- correction 342 

- diacritical 14,131,164 

- owner 92 

- phonetic 346-347 

- punctuation 202, 256, 258, 341ff 

- repetition 345-346 

- reverence 354-355 

- section 352-353 

- segmentation 18, 50, 342-343, 350ff 

- separation 124, 350-351 
Mashafa Berhan 44 

material analysis 38,177, 278ff, 289ff 

- fibre composition 295 

Mazar Tagh 302, 309, 312, 328-329 
Mengxi bitan 355 
Miran 303,309,312 
Mukhammas 99,105-106 
Mulasarvastivada 258-259 


Nanatsudera 362, 370 
Napoleon 80 

Naqshbandiyya-Jahriyya 99 
Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya 107 
Nearchus 216 
Needham, Joseph 360-361 
Nigeria 115-116,121-122 

Ochiai, Toshinori 362 
Octateuch 42-43,50,62 
Old Kanembu 115-116,119-120,126-127, 
129,131,133ff, 143ff 

pagination 84, 247, 251ff 
palaeography 51-52,113, 238, 278, 299ff 
palimpsest 14, 49, 62, 80, 200 
Palola Sahis 230, 253 
paratexts 3-4 

- colophon 41, 46, 48, 83-84, 91, 202, 351 

- tables of contents 83 

- cf. annotations 

- cf. glosses 

- cf. marks 

Philoponus, John 14,21,27 
philology 38, 45-45, 52ff, 176-177 

- cf. textual criticism 
Piluo sanmei jing 362 
place-value system 230, 253, 255, 260 
Plato 11,15, 25 

Prajfiaparamita 203, 231, 234, 258-259, 365 
pratityasamutpada gatha 364 

Qadiriyya 99 
Qalementos 57ff 

Qur’an 38, 40, 82, 88, 93,102,113,115ff 

reading 94,164,207,342-343 
relics 213, 363ff 
ritual manuals 362 

rituals 61, 206, 212, 220, 322, 329, 364, 367, 
369 

ruling 122,278,281 

Sarnyuktagama 190 
SaiigTtisutra commentary 207 
Bangs rgyas rgya mtsho 301, 316 
Sanjiefofa 362 


Index 


377 


Sanskrit 159ff, 183ff 

scribes lAff, 50, 52, 59, 80, 85-86,151,161, 
16A-165,175,184ff, 200ff, 215, 217, 

227ff, 282, 305, 311ff, 317, 322, 331ff, 350 

- scribal errors 52, 227-228, 235ff, 251, 

259, 343 
scripts 

- 'AbbasTd (Kufic) 137,143 

- Ajami 114ff 

- Arabic-based (cf. also Ajami) 111 

- Borno hand 137,140 

- BrahmT 183, 300 

- cuneiform 215 

- Grantha 165,281,285 

- IfrTqT 135,141 

- Islamic 131ff 

- Kashmir (cf. Sarada) 165,229,238 

- KharosthT 163ff, 184ff 

- MaghribT 114,135 

- Proto-Sarada (cf. Kashmir) 229, 264-265 

- pustaka 281, 285 

- Sarada 165-166, 228, 255, 263 

- Sino-Arabic 103-104 

- Tibetan 301ff 

- Xiaoerjing 79,103,111 
Seirydji Shaka 365 
SeldkarKanjur 282,284,290,292 
Shitong 356 

Silk Road 183,185-186,221 
Simplicius 14,18-19 
Sinodos 60ff 
SirhindT, Ahmad 99 
stupa 363 

Sudani 92,113-114,151 
Suvarnaprabhasa Sutra 365 

Talas 81 

talismans 368-369 
Tarjumo 146ff 
Tegray 37, 39, 46, 62 

textual criticism 20, 22, 45, 54, 60,169,175ff 
Thymelaeaceae family plants 290 
Tibet 159,167, 275ff, 299ff 

- Northeastern Tibet (Amdo) 304 

- Tibetan Buddhist Canon 279,294 
Traditio Apostolica 62-63 
transliteration 11-12,103 
typology 4, 52,116, 277ff, 299ff 


Vajracchedika Prajfiaparamita Sutra 365 
VajravalT 364 
VikramorvasTya 189 
vow 368 

watermarks 82,128-129 
West Africa 114ff 
writing materials 

- birch bark 137,166,183,192,197-198, 

215ff 

- Chinese laid paper 290 

- mulberry paper 289-290 

- palm leaf 159,161,166ff, 184ff, 200 

- paper 49, 80ff, 200, 220f, 229, 280-281, 

285, 289ff, 302, 308, 359 

- papyrus 12, 41, 79ff, 193,166, 215-216, 

276 

- parchment 13, 37, 41ff, 80ff, 216ff 

- “tre lune” paper 128-129 
writing styles 113ff, 263 

- Buddhist manuscript styles 319-324 

- calligraphic 120,137-138,263 

- epigraphic 304ff, 326-327 

- epistolatary 317 

- monastic 327 

- official 312ff, 326-327 

- square 306ff 

- sutra 309ff, 326-327 
writing substances 

- blood 371,374 

- gold 221, 280ff 

- ink 20, 38, 49-50, 82, 84ff, 166,199-200, 

217, 247, 275, 280ff, 365 
writing tools 281 

- brush 199,217,345 

- pen 199, 215, 238ff 

- stylus 166 

Xuanzang 363 
xuyuan 368 

xylography 279-280, 295 

Yemeni 87,92,94-95,105,110 
Yijing 364 

Zar’aYa‘qob 42-44